Virginia's Cuba connection

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Container ship at the Port of Virginia
Virginia's exports to Cuba totaled nearly $400 million over the past decade.

HAVANA – The Port of Virginia will become the first port authority in the United States to sign a cooperation agreement with Cuba, according to published news reports. Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the proposed agreement during a marketing and collaboration trip to Cuba.

In July 2015, President Barack Obama announced the US agreed to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba, paving the way for US companies to open trade and investment in Cuba. McAuliffe and a delegation of about 30 state officials and staff members launched the marketing and collaboration mission to Cuba on Jan. 3. Ten companies and institutions are participating in the mission, including representatives from Smithfield Foods, Perdue Agribusiness and Virginia Natural Beef.

“The Commonwealth’s work with Cuba and our agribusinesses and producers has led to approximately $400 million in agricultural exports to the country over the past decade, including approximately $25 million last year,” Todd Haymore, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, said in a news release announcing the mission.

In 2000, the US government approved cash-only agricultural exports to Cuba. Obama relaxed part of the trade embargo against Cuba, and has asked Congress to lift the trade ban completely.

Cuba recently re-opened its Mariel Port in an effort to become a major center for ships passing through the Panama Canal.

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