Terri Sewell to visit Cuba to discuss expanding agricultural trade

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Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07) is headed to Cuba.

Sewell announced Tuesday evening she will be traveling to Cuba this week with U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on a congressional delegation to discuss opportunities to expand agricultural trade.

“I am excited to join Secretary Vilsack for this historic visit to Cuba,” Sewell said in a news release. “This visit builds on the trade summit I hosted in Montgomery earlier this year with U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. Given Alabama’s growing trade interests, I look forward to meeting with members of Cuba’s Ministry of Agriculture and discussing ways to further expand trade with Cuba.”

The schedule includes meetings with Cuban government officials in agriculture, foreign affairs, and food purchasing and visits to port facilities, markets and cooperatives.

“This trip will be an opportunity to support the administration’s commitment to normalizing relations and empowering the Cuban people through bilateral agricultural engagement,” Vilsack said. “Food and agricultural goods are the dominant U.S. exports to Cuba and agriculture can serve as a bridge to foster cooperation, understanding and the exchange of ideas.

According to the Foreign Trade Division of the U.S. Census Bureau, Alabama exported about $32.8 million in food products to Cuba in 2014.

“With renewed U.S. diplomatic relations in Havana, my hope is that Alabama will derive huge economic benefits that have been fostered by existing trade relationships with Cuba,” Sewell said. “Access to foreign markets and fair trade policies that benefit American workers are necessary components that will help Alabama exporters to continue to thrive and spur new job creation. President Obama took historic steps to chart a new course for U.S.-Cuba relations when he restored diplomatic relations between our two countries. This will undoubtedly serve as a catalyst for increased trade and investment opportunities in Cuba for Alabama businesses, especially those in our agriculture sector.”

Under the Obama Administration, the United States has sought to improve relations with the Caribbean nation. The trade embargo was softened, Cuba was taken off the “terrorist sponsor” list and earlier this year embassies were established in each nation for the first time since 1961. Rep. Sewell will be joined by Sen.Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington, and Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon. The delegation left  Washington, D.C., Wednesday and will return Saturday.

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