Louisiana, Cuba commit to trading more — if embargo is lifted

Gov. John Bel Edwards would like to see more trade between Louisiana and Cuba if the U.S. government ever lifts its embargo on business with the island nation. (Photo by Chris Granger, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune) (CHRIS GRANGER)

Gov. John Bel Edwards would like to see more trade between Louisiana and Cuba if the U.S. government ever lifts its embargo on business with the island nation. (Photo by Chris Granger, Nola.com | The Times-Picayune) (CHRIS GRANGER)

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Cuban officials made a commitment Tuesday (Oct. 4) to do more business between Louisiana and the island country, if the United States ever lifts its embargo on trade with Cuba.

Edwards and Cuban officials signed “memorandums of understanding” that indicate they will do more business with each other if the federal government allows it one day. The Port of New Orleans and Port of South Louisiana also made such agreements with Cuban ports, according to WAFB, a television station based out of Baton Rouge.

The commitments aren’t binding and largely ceremonial at this point. The United State has imposed strict economic sanctions on Cuba since the early 1960s. President Barack Obama has relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba and improved diplomatic relations in recent years, but most of the major restrictions on trade with the country remain in place.

Still, several political and business leaders in Louisiana want to be ready if the U.S. relaxes trade restrictions with Cuba as well. Before the U.S. embargo was put in place, Louisiana and the country were major trade partners.

“Looking ahead to hopefully soon, when the embargo is going to be lifted, we want to make sure Louisiana is put in a place where we can strengthen and resume that historical, traditional relationship that we’ve had with Cuba, Edwards told WAFB.

Both Democrats and Republicans in Louisiana support normalizing the U.S. relationship with Cuba. Edwards is a Democrat, but Agricultural Commissioner Mike Strain, an elected Republican, is  accompanying the governor on his trade mission to the country this week. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La., has also visited the country this year.

But U.S.-Cuba relations are a hot-button issues in the presidential race. The Cuban American population in Florida has historically been opposed to lifting the embargo and their opinion matters in national politics – since they are crucial constituency in a swing state that could turn the presidential election.

Julia O’Donoghue, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
October 4, 2016

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