Florida ports drop trade with Cuba, Port of Mobile to pick up slack

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Alabama officials were in Tampa Thursday to ink a trade agreement with Cuba, one that Florida ports cannot.

Seaports in Mobile and Havana are agreeing to do business in the future in a deal similar to one that had been between three ports in Florida.

That is until last week, when Gov. Rick Scott threatened to pull funding to ports shipping to Cuba.

John Kavulich, president of the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, told the Tampa Bay Times: “This feels like Cuba’s way of saying if Florida doesn’t want our business, Alabama does … And they are coming onto your turf to do it.”

Representatives for Alabama and Cuba were attending “Planning for Shifting Trade,” an international conference sponsored by the American Association of Port Authorities, held at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina.

So far, the U.S. allows only a limited number of exports to Cuba, which is still under a trade embargo imposed half a century ago after Cuban leader Fidel Castro established communism on the island nation. A 2000 law allows some exceptions, such as agricultural goods and food.

Castro died in November 2016.

Mobile has the fifth highest number of exports to Cuba among U.S. ports, Kavulich told the Times.

Currently, Tampa ports send no shipments to Cuba.