Gov. Jay Nixon is working to strengthen a trade agreement with Cuba to export Missouri goods. On Wednesday, Nixon returned from Cuba, where he led a delegation of the state's agriculture and business leaders.
Delegation members me with Cuban officials, including Vice President Ricardo Cabrisas, Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca and Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez. In a news conference after returning to the United States, Nixon said Missouri exported $13.6 billion in goods last year, up from $9.5 billion when he assumed office in 2009. Nixon says this is his 13th foreign trade mission since then. "Finding new markets boosts our Missouri economy," said Nixon. "Quite frankly, when we sell things abroad it means jobs at home."
This week, Cuba accepted 20 tons of long-grain rice grown and processed in Missouri — the first U.S. export of rice to Cuba since 2008. But Nixon says more steps must be taken to fully tap into the country’s trade potential.
"We still have some hurdles to get through on the [trade] embargo, and in banking and finance to be able to actually close these deals," said Nixon. "Congress in the United States is going to have to makes some decisions as we move forward about opening up the ability to bank there. ... Moving dollars is very important." Nixon says he will welcome a future delegation of Cubans to Missouri to continue discussing a trade agreement. He noted many opportunities for expansion in future agreements, though he plans to focus on agricultural exports for now. "Cubans consume what Missouri farmers produce: soybeans, corn, rice, beef, dairy, poultry, hogs, cotton, wine, biodiesel, along with sustainable energy, fertilizers, and crop nutrition products," Nixon said
Mallory Daily is an intern at the State Capitol Bureau for St. Louis Public Radio. Follow on Twitter: @malreports