Louisiana Signs Trade Deal With Cuba

3-11-05, 2:53 pm

From Granma

 LOUISIANA Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and Pedro Alvarez, director of the Cuban firm Alimport, have signed a $15 million trade deal for rice, dairy products, soya, fish feed stock and other goods from that US state.

The deal was signed after the US Treasury Department announced, in a February 22 press release, that Cuban payments must be made before goods may be loaded onto the ships docked in US ports, a shift from current practice.

Alimport makes its payments for goods from the U.S. against the presentation of documents and transfer of property to the Cuban buyer, after the US exporter has received its payment in cash.

In a February 25 statement, Alimport affirmed that it would continue making purchases from US businesses, as long as conditions are acceptable within the logic of international trade practices.

Since December of 2001, Cuba has paid more than $1 billion in cash to US businesses for food purchases.


The trade deal that has just been signed with Louisiana facilitates the regularization of food purchases from that state and strengthens relations with its business community.

During the ceremony held at the emblematic Hotel Nacional in Havana, the first two purchases covered by the agreement were concretized by the signing of two contracts worth $2.8 million for 10,000 tons of milled rice and 160 tons of powdered milk, with the Louisiana Rice Mill LLC and AmPro Trading companies, respectively.

Alimport’s director also signed an agreement with Gary LaGrange, executive director of the Port of New Orleans, Louisiana’s most important and the largest in the U.S. LaGrange is also president of the American Association of Port Authorities.

During the ceremony, Governor Kathleen B. Blanco spoke not only in her capacity as leader of her state, but also as president of the Gulf of Mexico States Accord, which comprises five U.S. states and six Mexican ones.

Blanco affirmed that Louisiana agricultural interests were broad ones, and expressed gratitude at the opportunity to do trade with Cuba. She stated that it was a very important moment, and that she understood its historical significance. Her hope was that these relations would be mutually beneficial in the future, she added.

'The people of Louisiana wish to say to the people of Cuba...much love and respect is extended across the Gulf of Mexico,' she commented.

With her visit to Cuba, Blanco makes Louisiana the fourth US state that has honored Cuba with its highest government authority over the last five years. Her visit to Cuba was preceded by visits from the governors of Illinois, Minnesota and North Dakota.

The Alimport director emphasized that the state of Louisiana is the one of the closest to Cuba, and predicted that the agreement signed will become even more significant in the future, with the willingness of the governor and the team that accompanied her to Cuba. He added that Louisiana is open to Cuba’s investment process.

Pedro Alvarez noted that while several ships sail monthly from Louisiana to Cuba, the time would come when that would change to several daily. He remarked that the agreement brings the day closer when current trade restrictions between Cuba and the U.S. are eliminated.

Those who accompanied Blanco to Cuba included Michael Olivier, state secretary for economic development and trade; State Representative Gil Pinac, director of the state trade committee; Senator Noble Ellinston, and New Orleans port officials.

Regarding the measures announced by the US Treasury Department, Alvarez remarked that it was doubtless the case that the more they try to obstruct trade with U.S. businesses, the more insecure and the less competitive they make their products, by not being on an equal footing with other agricultural producers in the world.

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