Texas coalition wants to boost trade with Cuba

Austin Business Chronicle

By: Michael Theis

A new statewide business group is pressuring the federal government to loosen travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. Over the past two years, the Obama administration has taken steps to warm relations between the U.S. and Cuba but trade is not yet freely flowing between the two nations.

The 43-member coalition, dubbed Engage Cuba, includes the Texas Association of Business, the Texas Association of Manufacturers, a host of academics and economists, Google's head of external affairs for the Southwestern United States, Dell Inc. and Dell Children's Medical Association.

“Texas is a leading economic driver for the U.S. economy and opening up trade with Cuba would provide tremendous opportunities for businesses across the state," said James Williams, president of Engage Cuba, in a Thursday announcement. "However, Texans are stuck on the sidelines as our foreign competitors continue to take advantage of Cuba’s growing markets.”

The group will lobby Congress to pass three bills that would make it easier for trade and tourists to flow across the Gulf of Mexico to the communist-led Caribbean island:

  • The Agricultural Export Expansion Act of 2015 would allow U.S. farmers to offer financing to cuban importers.
  • The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act would open up tourism between the two countries.
  • The Cuba Trade Act of 2015, would legalize the export of goods and services from U.S. businesses to Cuba.