Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Idaho governor seeking approval for trade mission to Cuba

Idaho governor seeking approval for trade mission to Cuba

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — State officials have filed applications with the
U.S. State Department for Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to travel to the
communist island nation of Cuba on a trade mission to promote Idaho
agricultural products.

Cuba has been under a U.S. trade and travel embargo since 1962, which
Otter would like to see lifted.

"While in Congress, he made it clear that the embargo with Cuba has been
a failure," Mark Warbis, Otter's communications director, told the Idaho
Statesman. "It's not the government, but the people it's punishing."

Otter would be part of a trade mission that would include other state
officials as well as business leaders. State officials hope to receive
approval by the end of the month, and travel to Cuba next month.

The U.S. began allowing the sale of food and medicine to Cuba in 2000.

As a U.S. congressman representing Idaho, Otter traveled to Cuba three
times in 2003 and 2004. A February 2004 visit included Sen. Larry Craig,
R-Idaho, and the two met with Cuban President Fidel Castro and
negotiated a $10 million trade agreement.

But little trade resulted because Cuba didn't want to pay prices Idaho
companies required, said Sid Smith, Craig's spokesman.

The Idaho Commerce and Labor department reported that Idaho exported
$22,613 worth of frozen vegetables to Cuba in 2004.

Developing trade relations would be a "fantastic move," said Robin
Lorentzen, a professor of sociology at Albertson College in Caldwell.

"It would be very beneficial to Idaho farmers and the Cubans as well,"
she said.

Nina Ray, a professor of marketing at Boise State University, said the
visit is a smart idea considering Castro's failing health and the
possibility of improved relations between the two nations were Castro to

She said that might lead to markets for high-tech products from Idaho.

"Cubans aren't ignorant about high tech," Ray said. "Although they can't
afford high tech, they are very educated, and if trade does open up more
it would open up for our high-tech products."

Information from: Idaho Statesman,

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