A group of economic development officials and port operators from Cuba are making a goodwill tour of six American seaports, and on Wednesday, they arrived at the Port of New Orleans to discuss new opportunities for trade.
The delegation met with representatives from local manufacturers, shippers and logistics providers, and the port gave them a tour of the harbor. In return, the delegates gave an overview of investment opportunities at the Mariel Special Economic Zone and the new Mariel Container Terminal, located about 15 nm to the west of Havana.
Delegations of American port executives and economic development officials have already visited Cuba, including representatives from Norfolk, Port Everglades, Tampa, Houston, and New Orleans.
“We’re very pleased that Cuba’s leading trade ambassadors are visiting Louisiana so soon after our [earlier] business development mission there,” said Louisiana economic development secretary Don Pierson. “We have an unmatched port system here in Louisiana, and the leaders of those ports continue to prioritize trade with Cuba on many fronts."
The first legal cargo shipment from Cuba in 50 years arrived in Port Everglades on Tuesday, and other ports are taking notice of the potential for more cargo volume. "For states with port facilities, there is substantial political and commercial interest," said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, speaking to Reuters.
The future of U.S.-Cuban trade is uncertain, as President Donald Trump has promised to review and potentially cancel the many diplomatic agreements that former President Barack Obama reached with Havana over the last several years. In September, Trump expressed openness to normalized trade relations with Cuba, but two months later he tweeted that if "Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the U.S. as a whole, I will terminate the deal.”
The Cuban trade delegation includes:
- René Rolando Fernández Lara, Director of Inland Waterway and Sea Transport;
- Ana Teresa Igarza, General Director, Office of Mariel Special Development Zone;
- Eradis Gonzá Peńa, President of Almacenes Universales SA;
- Leonardo Sosa Barrios, Assistant Director, Mariel Container Terminal;
- Tania Vazquez, Senior Official, Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment;
- Joel Lago Oliva, First Secretary, Embassy of Cuba in Washington D.C.;
- Ernesto Vińas Betancourt, Advisor to the Deputy Minister of Transportation.