Mississippians Join Effort to Expand Trade with Cuba

Mississippi Public Broadcasting

By: Evelina Burnett

Thirty-five Mississippians in a variety of industries and areas have joined a state council organized by Engage Cuba. That's a group working to end America's historic travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. James Williams is the organization's president.

"What we've found is a huge disconnect between citizens across the country and what members of Congress and their staffs are doing on these issues, so part of the idea of the state council is to amplify the collective support that we know exists in these states," he says.

Mississippi’s is the 10th state council for Engage Cuba.

Ashley Edwards is president of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Business Council and one of the founding members of the Mississippi Engage Cuba council. Edwards notes Cuba imports 80 percent of its food.

“So when we have an opportunity with a country that is so close to our border, just off of our shores, that is a food importer, and you take an agricultural state that is very nearby, that has the ability to export a lot of crops, a lot of food, poultry, soybeans, sweet potatoes, all of the things that we grow here in Mississippi. There’s a tremendous opportunity for Mississippi farmers to have an immediate impact.”

Edwards says opening up trade would also create opportunities for manufacturers and for the gulf coast as an export hub for outbound cargo.

"Farm equipment, agricultural equipment, automobiles, all of the things that we make here in Mississippi that ultimately could have a marketplace in Cuba," he says. "So as we grow the Cuban economy and there are new customers for Mississippi goods just off our shores in a market that before now has been not open to us, you can really see a lot of impacts for Mississippi.”