ATLANTA, GA. – Today, leading advocacy organization Engage Cuba launched a Georgia State Council to build support across the state to end the travel and trade embargo with Cuba. The council, which is made up of prominent business, agricultural, port, and community leaders, seeks to expand trade with Cuba in order to provide opportunities for Georgia businesses and empower the Cuban people.
Cuba imports almost 80% of its food, and demand for commodities will only continue to grow given the rise of tourism and the increasing purchasing power of 11 million Cubans. However, Georgia's agriculture, tourism and manufacturing sectors continue to lose out on Cuba's fertile markets to foreign competitors due to existing trade barriers. Georgia exports, specifically poultry, have significant room for growth if changes in U.S. policies open opportunities for trade with Cuba and allow U.S. exporters to extend private credit to Cuba.
Additionally, despite the fact that Atlanta is less than a two hour plane ride away from Havana, Georgians are still prohibited from traveling freely to Cuba.
"Georgia businesses are stuck on the sidelines as our foreign competitors continue to take advantage of Cuba's growing markets. Opening up trade with Cuba would provide tremendous opportunities for Georgia's agriculture, tourism and manufacturing sectors," said President of Engage Cuba, James Williams. "As momentum builds across the country, we're very pleased to work with the Georgia State Council to lift the embargo that is costing Georgia jobs and preventing economic development for the Cuban people. It's time to end 50 years of failed, isolationist policies toward Cuba."
In addition to Georgia, Engage Cuba has launched state councils in Minnesota, Ohio, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana as part of efforts to build momentum across the country. This network of state councils will mobilize grassroots support for lifting the Cuban embargo. The Georgia State Council is being launched in partnership with the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.
The Engage Cuba Georgia State Council is made up of leaders across industries and localities in Georgia. While Engage Cuba and the Georgia Chamber will continue to add participants, the current list includes:
- Gary Black, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Agriculture
- William F. Bina III, MD, MPH, Dean, Mercer University School of Medicine
- Mark Butler, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Labor
- Justin Clay, Director of Government Relations, NCR Corporation
- Terry Coleman, Former Speaker, Georgia House of Representatives
- Billy Crider, Chairman, Crider Inc.
- John Cushnie, SVP, Investor Engagement, Georgia Chamber of Commerce
- Larry H. Hanson, City Manager, City of Valdosta
- John C. Key, Executive Director of Pan American Council on Trade, LLC
- Jerry Lane, President, Claxton Poultry
- Jann Moore, Government Affairs Manager, Caterpillar
- Sam Pardue, Dean, UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
- Sean Register, Founder & CEO of Register International
- Tas Smith, National Affairs Specialist, Georgia Farm Bureau
- Ron Stephens, Chairman, House Economic Development & Tourism Committee
- Dennis Wynn, Director, Membership Development, Choice Hotels
Engage Cuba is advocating for the bipartisan Agricultural Export Expansion Act of 2015 in order to allow Georgia farmers to offer financing to Cuban importers and recapture lost market share. Additionally, Engage Cuba is working to lift the travel ban through the Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, which would expand Cuba’s already growing markets and provide additional opportunities for U.S. agribusiness to export to Cuba. More information on both pieces of legislation is available here.