U.S. vendors look to Cuban market
From Shasta Darlington, CNN
November 4, 2009 — Updated 2045 GMT (0445 HKT)
Havana, Cuba (CNN) — Richard Waltzer has a pitch for Cuba: Miller beer
and Häagen-Dazs ice cream.
If he has his way, those products soon will be available at supermarkets
and beach resorts on the communist island.
"This is one of the things people are going to pay premium for," Waltzer
said, "especially the tourists that have the dollars. It's going to be a
This week, dozens of Americans are in Havana, peddling their wares at an
international trade fair: apples, pears, grapes, raisins, nuts out of
U.S.-Cuba relations appear to be thawing.
In Havana, billboards depicting the U.S. president as Adolf Hitler have
disappeared. In Washington, President Obama has lifted restrictions on
Cuban-American travel and money transfers.
Video: Americans peddle wares in Cuba
The new political climate has prompted companies such as Chicago Foods
to come to Havana's trade fair for the first time. They're hoping to
break into the little-known market and go home with a contract.
Despite a trade embargo imposed against Cuba in 1962, the United States
is the No. 1 supplier of food to that country and has been for more than
five years. A law passed in 2000 allows the United States to export
agricultural products and medicine.
But this year, the global economic crisis is taking its toll.
"Cuba has not been an exception," said Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, minister
of foreign trade and investment. "At the end of the third quarter in
2009, our trade fell by 36 percent."
The country is slashing imports of U.S. food by one-third, which means
some vendors will go home empty-handed.
But vendors are betting U.S.-Cuba relations will only get better. They
said they're also hoping the next step could be bills in the U.S.
Congress that would eliminate restrictions on all Americans traveling to
"We're in this for the long haul as well," said Paul Johnson of Chicago
Foods. "Like I said before, we're thinking about today as well as tomorrow."
A tomorrow that would have U.S. tourists sipping American beer on Cuban
U.S. vendors look to Cuban market – CNN.com (5 November 2009)