Governor of Louisiana Heads Trade Mission to Havana

Louisiana-trade-mission-CubaGov. John Bel Edwards, of Louisiana leads a trade mission to Cuba. They will arrive in Havana today. Photo courtesy: The Governor's office.

Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana will lead the next trade mission to Cuba October 3-7.  The trade mission will arrive in Havana today.  The current threat of Hurricane Matthew in eastern Cuba has not effected the schedule to Havana which lies in the west. The group is in Havana to promote further trade and cultural exchanges between the U.S. and Cuba.  The Louisiana delegation will attend an official reception and dinner hosted by Cuban officials this evening.

Also accompanying the Governor is Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson and Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson. Governor Edwards’ trade delegation is comprised of  50 other state, regional, local, educational, and private business leaders.  Five Louisiana port districts executives are also taking part.

Other committees and institutions taking part in the trade trip are the Committee of 100 for Economic Development, LSU, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, the Water Institute of the Gulf and a variety of leading executives of the Louisiana business community.

Over the last decade, Louisiana is positioned as the top exporter to Cuba with exports in the $1.4 billion range.  This is the first official visit of a Louisiana governor since the three day visit of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco in 2005.  Ms. Blanco’s visit was also to promote greater trading between Louisiana and Cuba.  Commissioner Strain’s visit in July was to establish the framework for Governor  Edwards’ trade delegation.

Expanding trade and commerce between Cuba and Louisiana tops the agenda for this week’s visit.   Meetings will take place with Cuba’s trade, agriculture and foreign affairs government ministers.

Governor Edwards said of the trade delegation visit, “While we experienced significant levels of trade with Cuba in recent years, the sanctions in place over the past half-century have largely limited that trade to essential items, such as food and medicine.  There remains much work to be done before our nation’s embargo on broader trade with Cuba is lifted. 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 with Cuba following this bipartisan visit. 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. For those reasons, we are eager to embark on this trade mission and to place Louisiana in a unique position of leadership with respect to Cuba.”

Tomorrow’s agenda includes meetings with the Cuban ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Foreign Investment, and the National Port Administration of Cuba.

On Wednesday, the Louisiana trade delegation will visit both the Port of Mariel and the Port of Havana.  The Louisiana ports executives with discuss opportunities and capabilities with their Cuban counterparts.

The LED Office of International Trade and the DOTD office of Multimodal Commerce who are also participating, support the expansion of trade and investment between Cuba and Louisiana.

LED Secretary Pierson said, “Louisiana’s commercial, transportation and cultural ties with Cuba run deep and offer great common ground for our new engagement with Cuba. This year, the Louisiana Legislature charged LED with developing a plan for the State of Louisiana that tackles two big goals: one, the development and improvement of trade relations with Cuba; and, two, a strategic analysis that identifies Louisiana’s unique economic opportunities relative to Cuba. This delegation led by Gov. Edwards will go a long way toward informing our analysis for the Legislature, which we will provide early next year. We’re also indebted to Commissioner Strain for leading the July trip to Cuba and for continuing his collaboration with us to maximize Louisiana’s opportunities in Cuba.”

Thursday’s focus will be on agriculture with a meeting with the Minister of Agriculture for Cuba and visits to Cuba’s  private, state and cooperative farms, tours of local agricultural markets, a visit to Havana’s school of veterinary medicine, and meetings with university leaders.

“Cuba imports 80 percent of its produce and Cuba is in great need of quality products Louisiana can provide,” said Commissioner Strain, who leads Louisiana’s Department of Agriculture and Forestry. “For example, Cubans are the largest consumers of rice per capita in the Western Hemisphere.  High-quality rice is one of many agricultural products we grow. With the proximity of our ports, we are an obvious trading partner with Cuba. We hope to continue to build this relationship with Cuba and provide its people and visitors with Louisiana products. Currently, Cuba imports $2 billion in agricultural products each year. They need wheat, corn, rice, pork, poultry, soybeans, petroleum and mechanical implements. This exchange could be truly beneficial for both Louisiana and Cuba.”

Governor Edwards’ trade delegation will leave Havana Friday morning after a special farewell reception.

Information sourced:  Press Release of Gov. John Bel Edwards

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