Published On: Wed, Feb 18th, 2015

US senators highlight trade potential with Cuba

us_senatorsHAVANA, Cuba - US Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Mark Warner of Virginia highlighted at a press conference in Havana on Tuesday morning the potential of trade relations between Cuba and the United States.

Klobuchar, McCaskill and Warner, all members of the Democratic Party, said they were optimistic about the future of relations between the two countries, while noting they were impressed by the opportunities offered by the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM), after a visit to that port.

McCaskill said they are the first members of the US Congress to tour the ZEDM and said she was shocked to see what is happening in the area.

"I come from a state where we grow beans, corn and rice, we have cows, hogs; I see ships in the Mariel and food containers produced in Missouri, but to do so we have to move forward with this complicated process on relations between the two countries,” the senator said.

Meanwhile, Klobuchar, who introduced in the Senate on February 12, a bipartisan bill that proposes to remove the embargo restrictions relating to trade, travel and maritime transportation, among other things, added that there is much interest in United States on possible trade relations with Cuba.

Klobuchar, a member of the US Congressional Subcommittee on Foreign Commerce and Tourism, said that there are numerous prospects on the island for the development of this industry.

"We know we have a long way to go yet, but I'm very glad I made this trip, for having met with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez and thank the Cuban government and people for the warmth they received us," said the Minnesota senator, adding that she never thought that December 17, 2014, would be "one day to remember all my life."

Answering questions from the press, Klobuchar said that, from the restoration of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, the bill presented last week will advance and improve trade in areas such as agriculture.

Senator Mark Warner, a former governor of Virginia, said trade relations will benefit both countries if they continue to work together even when there are differences.

Virginia was one of the first states that in 2002 began selling agricultural products to Cuba and has since then has done so with severe limitations that include paying cash in advance and in this sense Warner said he hopes trade restrictions can be lifted in the new context.

"We must move beyond the differences and realize that this is a new day and that both parties must move forward," said Warner, while claiming to be optimistic about talks between the two countries.

Before concluding the press conference, Klobuchar said they return home having achieved the goals of the trip: "The main reason was to come and share with the Cuban people, something we could do, walk the streets, and then go back and tell our colleagues what we've seen, there's an entrepreneurial spirit here, the people want better relations with the US."

"We come back with information to give to our colleagues because there are people in Congress who have a single view of Cuba and is only what they hear on the Hill," Klobuchar said.

The senators, who arrived in the island on Saturday, had a busy schedule, which included a meeting on Monday afternoon with Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, Cuba’s minister of foreign affairs, with whom they discussed the process of restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries and the lifting of the embargo of Cuba.

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