Thursday, May 27, 2010

Port of Houston expands trade with Cuba

Port of Houston expands trade with Cuba
by Gabe Gutierrez / 11 News
Posted on May 24, 2010 at 6:38 PM

HOUSTON — The Port of Houston has reached an agreement to ship directly
to Cuba, opening the door for more jobs and even a thriving cruise-line

"Our dream scenario is that we would end up in the cruise business with
Cuba," said Jim Edmonds, chairman of the Port of Houston Authority. "I
think that would be a popular destination."

The partnership has the potential to bring thousands of jobs to the
Houston area, port officials said. Already the nation's largest
petrochemical complex, the Port of Houston directly and indirectly
impacts 785,000 jobs in Texas.

The U.S. Commerce Department recently – and quietly – approved a
shipping contract for a company looking to transport goods directly
between Houston and the island nation. It marks another step in the
process of the Obama administration thawing relations with the communist

A series of embargoes have strictly limited trade with Cuba since 1962.

But in 2009, U.S. trade with the island located just 90 miles off the
Florida Keys was estimated at more than $500 million.

Texas wants a bigger piece of that. Right now, the Lone Star State is a
distant second behind Louisiana in exports to Cuba.

A previous policy prohibited container cargo from being shipped to Cuba
by any state besides Florida. Moving the cargo to Florida was proving
cost-prohibitive for many companies, so port officials have been
actively lobbying Congress and the Obama administration to ease trade

Edmonds said Cuba is very interested in importing goods from Texas,
including grain, poultry, and flour. Port officials are also looking
forward to the ability to ship steel to rehabilitate the country's
crumbling infrastructure.

Still, there are critics that wonder whether the U.S. should be doing
business with a communist country.

"We trade with communist nations all the time," Edmonds said. "I look at
this as a trade opportunity, not politics."

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