Trump tweet raises questions about the future of Louisiana-Cuba trade relations

Memos of Understanding signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana port official. (Source: WAFB)
Memos of Understanding signed by Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana port official. (Source: WAFB)
Cuba (Source: WAFB)
Cuba (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Many Louisiana leaders have their eyes on Cuba for trade opportunities, but a Trump administration could present a challenge to those hopes.

Louisiana's trade with Cuba, allowed largely through presidential executive orders, is slowly becoming big business.

"If you look in the last 10 years, Louisiana has sold approximately $1.4 billion in food products to Cuba, more than the next four states combined," said Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain.

He has led Louisiana's efforts opening the door to the island nation.

President-elect Donald Trump could reverse any of those executive orders easing Cuban-ties. Trump's views on US-Cuban relations have been inconsistent at best.

The deal he is referring to is the Obama administration's series of executive orders aimed at normalizing US relations with the island nation. Among other things, they allowed for increased travel and trade. In the earlier part of his presidency, George W. Bush also eased some trade restrictions, allowing the US to sell some food and medical supplies to the island after Hurricane Michelle for humanitarian reasons. These presidential actions worked to chip away at the embargo, which can only be lifted by an act of Congress.

On NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, one of Trump's advisors indicated that the president-elect wants to see the Cuban government provide more freedoms to the Cuban people in order to keep the executive orders in place.

"We got nothing in return," said Kellyanne Conway, a senior advisor to the Trump transition team. "We're allowing commercial aircraft there. We pretend we are doing business with the people there when we are actually doing business with the Cuban government and Cuban military. They still control everything."

Strain said if Trump chooses to reverse those orders, it could be a major setback for Louisiana. Gov. John Bel Edwards led a trade mission to Cuba in October aimed at opening the door to increased trade.

"It would really stymie all the progress that has been made. What would happen is we would trade less with Cuba than we do now and so, it would create a difficult situation for expansion of trade," Strain added.

If the embargo were lifted, Strain argued that more trade could prove to be a positive force for change in the country.

"The greatest form of diplomacy is through trade of food products, agricultural trade," Strain explained.

Strain estimates that if the embargo were lifted, Louisiana could sell hundreds of millions dollars' worth of products to Cuba each year.


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