Last updated: 03:30 PM ET, Thu October 13 2016

Port Of New Orleans, Cuba Sign MOU

Destination & Tourism | Rich Thomaselli | October 13, 2016

Port Of New Orleans, Cuba Sign MOU

PHOTO: Officials from the Port of New Orleans and Cuba sign a Memorandum Of Understanding. (Courtesy Port of New Orleans)

One need only walk the streets of New Orleans to see the Latin influence in the city, including from Cuba.

After all, for decades New Orleans was a key trade partner with the island nation of agricultural and manufactured goods until President John F. Kennedy enacted the trade embargo with Cuba in 1962.

It has lasted ever since, even though President Barack Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba. But as more and more travel entities have been able to re-establish ties with Cuba, so too is New Orleans looking to re-establish itself as a partner in Havana.

To that end, the Port of New Orleans this week signed a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) with Cuba to expand trade and commercial opportunities between the state of Louisiana and the island country.

The agreement also calls for joint marketing and information-sharing efforts.

“The proximity and historical relationship between Cuba and the Port of New Orleans has us well-positioned should the trade embargo be lifted, and we are prepared to play an important role in trade when the time comes,” Port of New Orleans Chief Operating Officer Brandy Christian said in a statement.

Christian signed the agreement with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and Director General Manuel Fernandez Perez Guerra of the National Port Administration of Cuba.

“We look forward to working closely with Cuban ports and trade authorities to grow opportunities and nurture long-standing relationships that will be mutually beneficial,” she added. “In the meantime, we will continue to efficiently handle those products that can be legally shipped to Cuba, often by Louisiana-based companies.”

The signing of the MOU came just days after Christian, Edwards, Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson and a 50-member delegation from the state returned from a four-day trip to. “There remains much work to be done before our nation’s embargo on broader trade with Cuba is lifted. However, there are new opportunities that can benefit Louisiana, and I am optimistic that we will be able to build on our existing trade partnership with Cuba following this bipartisan visit,” Edwards said. “We want Louisiana to be first in line to any new opportunities with Cuba, particularly the import, export and foreign direct investment possibilities that could range into the billions of dollars in the coming years.”

That includes tourism, specifically cruises. Four cruise lines currently call Port Nola home, including Carnival. At least one ship leaves the port every day except Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

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