Transport in Cuba
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Mississippi ports eye Cuba, sign agreements in Havana

Mississippi ports eye Cuba, sign agreements in Havana

The Mississippi ports of Pascagoula and Gulfport signed agreements in
Cuba on Monday with an eye to future business and with a Republican U.S.
senator from the state looking on, despite concerns President Donald
Trump might backtrack on improved relations.

Senator Thad Cochran is the only Republican among five U.S. senators and
a U.S. representative on a three-day visit to the Communist-run
Caribbean island to discuss relations and explore business opportunities.

The agreements were signed during a business forum to explore future
trade attended by Cochran.

“There is great potential for business between these ports and Cuba due
to the geographical proximity and the excellent fluvial and maritime
ways Mississippi has,” state-run media quoted Maria de la Luz B’Hamel,
director of commercial policy with the United States at the Cuban
Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, as saying.

The event was closed to foreign journalists.

The congressional delegation arrived on Sunday and is being led by
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, who was instrumental in
efforts to normalize relations under former Democratic President Barack
Obama.

Cuba watchers are looking closely for signs of how the fragile U.S.
detente with Cuba will fare under the new Trump administration.

The Republican president has threatened to scrap moves to normalize
relations, one of Obama’s signature foreign policy initiatives, if he
does not get “a better deal.”

Port authorities along the U.S. southern coast are strong proponents of
increased trade and travel with Cuba, and some have expressed interest
in using Mariel, located on the northwest coast of Cuba, as a
transshipment hub.

Similar agreements were signed last month with Virginia, Louisiana and
Alabama.

The Florida ports of Everglades and Palm Beach had also been planning to
sign deals, but balked after Republican state Governor Rick Scott
threatened to cancel their funding if they did business with the “Cuban
dictatorship.”

(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Source: Mississippi ports eye Cuba, sign agreements in Havana | Reuters
www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-usa-idUSKBN160060

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