Saturday, October 01, 2016

Edwards heading to Cuba for trade talks

Edwards heading to Cuba for trade talks
MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press 1:22 p.m. CDT September 30, 2016

BATON ROUGE — Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Friday that he is
traveling to Cuba next week for a trade mission, seeking to build
economic ties with the island nation now that the U.S. is moving to
normalize relations between the countries.

The five-day trip, which begins Monday, will include Agriculture
Commissioner Mike Strain, Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson and
Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson. About 50 other
state, local, education and business officials also will participate.

"We want Louisiana to be first in line to any new opportunities with
Cuba, particularly the import, export and foreign direct-investment
possibilities that could range into the billions of dollars in the
coming years," Edwards said in a statement.

The visit comes as President Barack Obama has re-established diplomatic
relations with the one-time foe. The United States and Cuba severed
diplomatic ties in 1961 amid the Cold War. Obama traveled to Cuba in
March, the first by a sitting U.S. president in nearly 90 years, and
he's named the first U.S. ambassador in more than a half-century.

Louisiana currently ranks as the top exporting state to Cuba and is
seeking to bolster those relationships.

State lawmakers passed a resolution earlier this year urging trade talks
with Cuba. Edwards' office said the Democratic governor's trip will
include executives from five Louisiana port districts to discuss
commercial opportunities with the country.

"There remains much work to be done before our nation's embargo on
broader trade with Cuba is lifted," Edwards said. "However, there are
new opportunities that can benefit Louisiana, and I am optimistic that
we will be able to build on our existing trade partnership."

The governor's office said Edwards and the Louisiana delegation will
attend an opening reception with Cuban officials Monday night; hold
meetings Tuesday with the Cuban ministers of foreign affairs and foreign
investment and the national port administration; visit the Port of
Mariel and Port of Havana on Wednesday; visit farms and meet with the
Cuban minister of agriculture on Thursday; and return to Louisiana on

Strain also traveled to Cuba in July with a state delegation.

"Cuba imports 80 percent of its produce, and Cuba is in great need of
quality products Louisiana can provide," the Republican agriculture
commissioner said in a statement.

The last visit to Cuba was by Democratic Louisiana Gov. Democrat
Kathleen Blanco in 2005.

Source: Edwards heading to Cuba for trade talks -
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