Posted on Tue, Apr. 04, 2006
Talks to explore Cuba trade
Herald Staff Writer
MANATEE – The Florida chapter of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association will
meet next week to discuss how businesses can benefit from current and
potential trade policies with Cuba.
If the United States doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity, other
countries will, according to member Stanley Riggs, a Sarasota resident
and Palmetto businessman who is privately developing a $20 million
warehouse complex near Port Manatee’s U.S. 41 entrance.
“We’re talking about filling a void that some other country is going to
fill, and we might regret how that plays out,” Riggs said.
The U.S.-Cuba Trade Association is a collection of business interests
that want to promote normal commerce between the United States and Cuba
while leaving the political issues at the door.
Congress passed in 2000 the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export
Enhancement Act, which paved the way for U.S. companies to sell limited
goods such as medical, agricultural and food products to Cuba.
U.S. companies have signed $2 billion worth of contracts with Cuba since
then, said Kirby Jones, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association,
which has 55 members in 35 states.
“I’ve been going back and forth for 30 years and I’ve never seen it so
positive,” he said. He believes the Cuban economy’s financial position
appears better than ever.
“You see new players in Cuba, particularly China and particularly in
energy exploration,” Jones said, adding that India, Spain and Canada are
pursuing Cuban business opportunities.
“The big benefit is not seeing the People’s Republic of China flag
flying on an oil platform 60 miles from our coast and them sending oil
to China,” Riggs said.
Riggs, with his privately owned Port Manatee Commerce Center in the
midst of construction, could gain from the complex’s proximity to the
port. “It is recognized that Port Manatee is the closest U.S. port to
Havana,” he said.
The port is ready for any possible trade developments, said port
Communications Manager Steve Hollister. “Port Manatee is in an excellent
position to benefit from any potential trade with Cuba due to its
geographic location and facilities,” he said. In 2003, the port saw two
animal feed shipments to Cuba.
Cuban officials, advocates and business leaders will join the Florida
contingent via teleconference to discuss future business opportunities
in the travel, real estate development, construction, technology and
“Doing Business in Cuba” will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on
April 13 at the Citrus Club in downtown Orlando.
For more information, contact www.uscuba.org.