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Houston’s Mayor Assesses the Houston to Havana Trade Mission

Participants of the Houston to Havana trade delegation in the garden of the American diplomat, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, in Havana. Photo: Houston to Havana Trade Delegation.

Leading the latest trade delegation to Cuba, Houston Mayor, Sylvester Turner, Chairman of the Greater Houston Partnership, Jamey Rootes, and President of the Greater Houston Partnership, Bob Harvey have just returned from a three day trade mission to Havana.  The 30 participants of the trade mission were made up of representatives from the Houston business community including the Houston Airport System, the Houston Harbor authority, the Halliburton Oil Corporation, the Texas Medical Center, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, United Airlines and the Houston Community College.

Strengthening bilateral ties and an exploration of potential business opportunities were a part of the delegation’s agenda in Havana.  Mayor Turner was also seeking Cuba’s support of Houston’s bid to host the 2020 World Petroleum Congress.

While in Havana, the trade delegation held meetings with various Cuban industry ministers including the Cuban Foreign Trade and Investment minister Rodrigo Malmierca, Energy and Mines minister Alfredo Lopez, Tourism minister Manuel Marrero, and the minister of Health, Roberto Morales.  Mayor Turner and the participants also had the opportunity to meet with the U.S. diplomat, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, nominated by President Obama to become the United States’ first ambassador to Cuba.  The group also had the pleasure of visiting a cigar factory in Havana.

Of the trade mission, Mayor Turner saw the trip to Havana as very productive for the group.  He said of the trip, “Hopefully, our visit will indicate how important Cuba is to Houston.   We know there are a lot of things happening between the White House and Cuban leadership and that will take care of itself.   In the meantime, I want the people of Cuba to know we are eager to begin building a relationship.   We have a lot to learn from one another.   This trip was all about beginning the dialogue that will lead to bigger things down the road.”

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This trade mission though, has not been the first engagement between Cuba and Texas.   There has been a longstanding relationship between the Texan state and the Republic of Cuba.   Trade  between the two has been in place over the years but is hampered by the current U.S. Embargo. The business community of the Texan state, like others in the U.S., has expressed the desire to open up trade with Cuba and realizes the current opportunities U.S. business is currently missing out on.  Opening up the barriers against Cuba will not only contribute to job creation and the economy of Texas, but also be create the same benefits for Cuba.

Business interests and officials in Texas want to be permitted to trade with Cuba.  Engage Cuba of  Washington has helped form a coalition group called the Texas State Council.  The Texas State Council is a group of more than 40 businesses and officials who realize the potential of trade and business with Cuba and are supporting the call to lift the embargo, ending the limitations on trade and travel.

Major Turner’s trade mission to Cuba follows Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s trip to Havana last year.  Both trips had the objective of exploring relationships and trade opportunities between Texas and Cuba.  Building trade relationships with Cuba is the wisest way for business to find entry into the Cuban market.  Trade missions are the best method for investors to explore entry in Cuba.  The experts are all saying the same thing, “the early bird gets the worm.”  Congratulations to Houston and Havana.

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