Saturday, January 31, 2009

Texas commissioner urges more trade with Cuba

Posted on Friday, 01.30.09
Texas commissioner urges more trade with Cuba
The Associated Press

AUSTIN -- Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said Friday he is
asking President Barack Obama to help expand trade with Cuba so that
country can be restored as a market for Texas and American products
while serving Cuba's humanitarian needs.

Staples made the announcement in an address at a symposium on Cuba-U.S.
relations at the University of Texas at Austin.

"Texas agricultural products are the best in the world. I want our
producers to expand their trading relationships across the globe, and
that includes the Cuban market," Staples said. "After visiting the
island nation, I see the opportunity for both countries to benefit by
relaxing the current trade restrictions."

Staples sent a letter to Obama dated Thursday that said other countries
are capitalizing on Cuban demands for products.

"I know the diplomatic policy process with Cuba will present extensive
challenges," Staples wrote. He went on to ask that Obama move
aggressively toward strong diplomatic relationships that allow for free
and open trade with Cuba.

The United States has had a trade embargo against Cuba since 1962. In
2000, Congress passed a law allowing the sale of some agricultural and
medical products to Cuba.

Last year, Staples led a Texas delegation of farmers, ranchers,
commodity suppliers and port representatives to Cuba, becoming the first
statewide elected official from Texas to visit the nation on official
state business in more than 45 years. Staples said the purpose of the
trip was to identify Cuban food needs not met by domestic production.

Since that visit, Texas producers have secured cotton and grain
contracts totaling nearly $1 million. Earlier this week, WestStar Foods,
another trade delegation member, shipped 5,000 tons of beans to Cuba
from the Port of Corpus Christi and expects to deliver additional
shipments later this year, according to the commissioner's office.

"In addition to its close proximity as our neighbor, Cuba and its people
are in extreme need of America's leadership," Staples wrote to Obama.
Staples said since the trade embargo Cubans have been deprived of the
highest-quality food from the United States.

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