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Texas Eyes Expanded Export Ties With Cuba

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s three-day visit to Havana was designed to find ways for Texas to capitalize on what he sees as a growing economic opportunity.

Playa Ancon, Trinidad de Cuba
Playa Ancon, Trinidad de Cuba

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently led an entourage of business leaders and port and airport officials on a business development mission to Cuba. The governor wants to encourage closer economic ties between Texas and Cuba, whether or not the U.S. embargo is lifted.

The trip comes less than a year after President Obama re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba.  Abbott’s three-day visit to Havana was designed to find ways for Texas to capitalize on what he sees as a growing economic opportunity.

“If you think about the process of doing deals, the first part is opening the door, establish a relationship at the highest level in the state of Texas, that Texas businesses will have the opportunity to tap into as they expand their businesses going forward,” Abbott said.   

Saba Abashawl with the Houston Airport System was part of the governor’s entourage. Currently, the U.S. embargo allows only certain travelers to the Caribbean nation.

“Family visits, official business of the U.S. government and foreign governments, journalistic activities — you, educational activities, religious activities, public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and lastly, certain authorized export transactions,” she said.  

Texas rice farmers have been exporting to Cuba, but Abbott says it’s been in a very small way.

“Because of the inability for Cuba to do business on credit with Texas, it is more cost-beneficial for them to do business primarily with Vietnam,” he said.  

But the governor considers our top exports to be freedom and free enterprise, according to Cynthia Thomas with TriDimension Strategies, who arranged the trip.

“Oh, I think it’s a huge statement for him to have gone. That was really very important, especially in a country like Cuba that puts high value on elected officials visiting their country, and that protocol that is related to that,” she said.  

Advocacy groups lobbying Congress to end travel and trade restrictions with Cuba say renewed relations could result in $57 million annually in new exports and 1,500 new jobs in Texas.

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