Virginia Set to Expand Trade With Cuba

With trade limits easing, Gov. McAuliffe plans Havana visit.

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It may not be time quite yet to break out the Cuba Libres, but Virginia is poised to expand its trade ties with Havana.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe will visit Cuba later this year as the U.S. takes steps to normalize diplomatic relations with the Cuban government.

Virginia has been shipping mostly agricultural products such as soybeans, apples, poultry and pork for about 14 years. But the level of trade, about $66 million, is small.

President John F. Kennedy slapped a trade embargo on Cuba in 1962 -– the year the United States almost went to war with the Soviet Union, which placed nuclear-armed missiles on Cuba capable of striking much of this country in about 15 minutes.

The embargo has been eased but trade is limited because Cuba is barred from buying goods on credit and must handle transactions through third-party banks because direct financial ties aren't allowed.

Even so, Virginia is the third largest trading partner with Cuba in the United States after Louisiana and Florida.

McAuliffe has visited Cuba as a private citizen, and Virginia secretaries of agriculture and commerce have made more trips.

As normalization proceeds, trade impediments should be lifted, fostering more trade. That’s likely to benefit Virginia.

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