Virginia governor calls for lifting of blockade on Cuba

Havana, Jan 5 (IANS) Visiting Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe met Cuban Foreign Trade and Investments Minister Rodrigo Malmierca to seek new business opportunities between the island and the US state.

During Monday’s meeting, McAuliffe said his trip to Havana was aimed at boosting agricultural exports from Virginia to Cuba and promote closer links in maritime transportation, higher education and the arts, Xinhua reported.

He noted that his state had sold around $400 million worth of agricultural products to the island in the past decade, including the $25 million in 2015.

However, McAuliffe said bilateral trade was afflicted by disadvantageous conditions of Cuba since the advance payment was made in cash through bank branches in third countries, without the possibility of loans and due to the prohibition on the use of the US dollars in such transactions.

He called for the lifting of the economic blockade on the island. Speaking at a business forum, he said the move was also in the interest of the US.

“We must work quickly to lay down the groundwork to eliminate restrictions for bank loans, as we have with other partners in the world,” said McAuliffe, adding not doing so would see Cuba find other suppliers.

Since his election in November 2013, the governor has worked to expand Virginia’s relations with Cuba and has regularly called on Congress to lift the economic, trade and financial blockade against Havana.

For his part, Malmierca highlighted how the blockade impairs normal relations and that, while President Barack Obama has taken steps in the right direction, this remains unresolved.

According to Malmierca, Cuba cannot gain credits from American banks and cannot export any products to the US, two areas which would anchor a normal business relationship.

McAuliffe arrived in Cuba on Sunday for a three-day visit, heading a political and trade mission seeking new areas of economic and social exchange with the Caribbean island.

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