Texas Governor Greg Abbott heads for Havana, Cuba, on Monday with a large trade delegation from the Lone Star State.
The move comes less than one year after President Barack Obama re-opened diplomatic relations with the nation still under the tight grip of the Castro regime.
Abbott leaves Monday to try and rebuild what was once a robust trading relationship with Cuba. The delegation meets with officials with Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, Cimex (Cuban Import-Export Corporation), the Cuba Chamber of Commerce, and Alimport, a Cuban export company and food importer, along with other economic institutions.
“With a new era of eased trade and travel restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba – and as the 12th largest economy in the world – Texas has an opportunity to capitalize and expand its economic footprint at home and abroad,” the Texas governor said in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas.
Some have expressed concern about the governor’s mission to Cuba in light of the on-going Communist control of the government and human rights violations. Former Republican Party of Texas Chair and Texas Eagle Forum President Cathie Adams told KTSA radio in San Antonio she objects to the Governor’s trade mission. The staunch conservative leader told the radio station that going to Cuba on a trade mission while a Communist government is still in place is like saying Communism is okay. She said Texas should not turn the other cheek just because the president says it’s okay to do business with Cuba.
Governor Abbott appears to hold a different perspective on the issue. “Opening the door to business with Texas will expand free enterprise and the freedom that flows from it,” the governor said in his written statement. “I look forward to expanding business opportunities for both Texas and Cuba.”
Texas and Cuba have a history of being strong trading partners, according to the Houston Business Journal. In 2000, limited trade re-opened with the Cuban nation under the 2000 Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act, signed into law by former President Bill Clinton. However, since President Obama re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba, Texas-Cuban trade has actually gone down in volume. The trade numbers are about half now, what they were in 2013 when the numbers hit $350 million.
Parr Rosson, head of the agricultural economics department at Texas A&M University, told the Dallas Morning News that there is a big upside for Texas in re-establishing solid trading relations with the island nation. “The potential is there because the market has been growing, but unfortunately our products haven’t been competitive,” Rosson told the Dallas newspaper. “There’s been an incursion of other countries, such as Brazil, China and Canada, into the market. Anything we can do on a trade mission about the benefits, the quality and the proximity of the supply chain will go a long way to strengthening the market.”
Cuba currently imports between $1.4 billion and $1.9 billion per year in agricultural and food products. Most of those come from Europe, Brazil, Argentina and Canada.
One Houston business owner said trade with Cuba is interesting but it should be put in proper perspective. “I would love to go to Cuba, but it’s just not a big priority,” Wes Stasny, vice president of sales for Lawler Foods told the Dallas Morning News. “There’s bigger fish to fry. Asia is huge. Cuba is just a little island.” Stasny heads up the family-owned company and previously traveled to Cuba on a state-sponsored trade mission in 2008.
Texas A&M University reports that Texas could benefit to the tune of $43 billion in total economic impact and an additional 214 jobs from increased exports and other trade with Cuba, the Dallas new outlet reported.
The trade mission is being paid for by TexasOne, Texas’ Economic Development Corporation. Traveling with the governor will be TexasOne’s CEO, Tracye McDaniel, members of the governor’s staff and a variety of business and economic leaders from across the Lone Star State, the governor’s statement revealed. The delegation will return to Texas on December 2.
Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and is a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.