Mississippi businesses eye opportunities in Cuba
Sarah Fowler , The Clarion-Ledger 8:15 p.m. CDT October 23, 2016
Toward that goal, nearly 150 Mississippi business leaders gathered in
downtown Jackson Thursday for a Doing Business in Cuba Summit hosted by
the Mississippi Development Authority.
"As regulations change across the board, they're seeing this as a
potential opportunity to increase their exports," said Jeff Rent,
MDA communications director, "and increased exports means that we're
making our economy stronger, we're selling more goods and we have a
market that is out there and if people in that market want
Mississippi-made products then it's really beneficial for the entire
There's a lot of opportunity because Cuba imports so much, Rent emphasized.
"Mississippi is an agriculture state, we're a manufacturing state.
Health care, technology, communications, agriculture — especially
poultry and rice — are all sectors that are really important to the
people of Cuba, and it's perfect for the business people of Mississippi
to try to establish those relationships."
SEE ALSO: Mississippi Gulf Coast could cash in on trade with Cuba
In February, MDA is taking Mississippians on a business development
mission to Cuba to help "establish those export relationships," Rent said.
"They're going to meet with a lot of companies, they're going to be
seeing all the capabilities that are available in Cuba and really, most
importantly, they're going to be seeing what the Cubans need."
One of Thursday's speakers, Saul R. Newsome, a Louisiana-based attorney
with expertise in international trade, said Cuba has changed
drastically and, as a result, the needs of the Cuban people have changed.
"If you were to walk through some of the streets of Old Havana and see
them 15 years ago compared to where they're at now, you can see that the
country is investing in itself," said Newsome. "It's developing, it's
advancing and it's exciting to see that and it's exciting to be a part
of that and help encourage growth and economic development."
Newsome said many of the regulations in Cuba will naturally require a
learning curve for Mississippi businesses.
"Most of this is new for everyone so spending that time and dedicating
to thinking creatively on how to accomplish your ends in Cuba is going
to be critical," he said. "Experience and relationships are key so
having those relationships in Cuba, traveling there frequently, really
provides an advantage to getting things done."
RELATED: Mississippians reflect on life in Cuba
Newsome said many have the impression that "the embargo has gone away
and Cuba is open for business and you can do whatever you want" but
that's not the case.
"The embargo is still 100 percent fully enforced," he said. "No laws
have changed within the United States to change the embargo. What has
happened is there has been a change in the supporting regulation and
there has been a change in interpretation of that regulation."
Rose Boxx, director of MDA's International Trade Division, agreed that
information and understanding of the trade regulations are key to
successful business relationships in Cuba.
"Preparation is the main factor for us," Boxx said. "Preparation and
education is the first step for us to be able to implement any future
trips or implement any kind of trade relations with Cuba from the state
perspective. We've got to educate our communities and make sure we
understand all the regulations and do everything properly."
Contact Sarah Fowler at email@example.com or 601-961-7303.
Source: Mississippi businesses eye opportunities in Cuba -