Texas del­e­ga­tion heads to Cuba with plans to re-es­tab­lish trade ties

The China Post - - BUSINESS -

A Texas del­e­ga­tion is ar­riv­ing in Cuba with hopes of build­ing a front-of-the-line po­si­tion for re­newed trade with the Caribbean na­tion long iso­lated by a U.S. em­bargo.

The Dal­las Morn­ing News re­ports the del­e­ga­tion land­ing in Ha­vana on Sun­day is the first Texas has sent to Cuba since the U.S. and the com­mu­nist is­land na­tion agreed to re­store diplo­matic re­la­tions.

Texas in­dus­tries with po­ten­tial to ex­pand trade with Cuba in­clude agri­cul­ture, air­lines, oil, tech­nol­ogy and tourism, said Cyn­thia Thomas, pres­i­dent of the Dal­las­based con­sult­ing firm Tri Di­men­sion Strate­gies and leader of the del­e­ga­tion.

“The last vis­its were about mak­ing in­tro­duc­tions, get­ting to know one an­other, find­ing the right com­fort zone,” she said. “This time, there’s a dif­fer­ent en­vi­ron­ment all around. We un- der­stand the Cubans are more ex­cited about do­ing busi­ness. We are, too.”

Tex­ans have been work­ing for years to lay a foun­da­tion for Cuban trade. In 2008, a 24-mem­ber del­e­ga­tion led by the state agri­cul­ture com­mis­sioner of the time, Todd Sta­ples, made a four-day agri­cul­tural trade mission to Cuba. Texas was sell­ing about US$25 mil­lion a year in agri­cul­tural goods to Cuba at the time un­der a food-and-medicine waiver in the U.S. trade em­bargo.

Real trade awaits re­peal of the em­bargo, which is a de­ci­sion for Congress to make. With pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns loom­ing and many Cuban- Amer­i­can vot­ers in Florida, a key state, op­posed to the thaw in re­la­tions with Cuba, lift­ing the em­bargo does not ap­pear to be im­mi­nent.

“I’d rather stay out of the po­lit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tion,” said Texas wheat farmer Ben Scholz. “I just want to fo­cus on sell­ing wheat, and this is a great op­por­tu­nity to do that.”

Nev­er­the­less, Texas farm­ers want in on a po­ten­tial of more than US$1 bil­lion (NT$30.72 bil­lion) in U.S. farm sales to Cuba post-em­bargo, said Dwight Roberts, pres­i­dent and CEO of the U.S. Rice Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

“We see light at the end of the tun­nel, but we just don’t know how long the tun­nel is,” Roberts said.

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