Virginia and Cuba to sign port agreement, look to expand trade
By Jaime Hamre
HAVANA Jan 4 (Reuters) - Virginia's port authority will become the first U.S. port operator to sign a cooperation agreement with its Cuban counterpart, in an effort to increase trade and establish direct service with Cuba, Virginia's governor said on Monday.
"We are going to sign an agreement tomorrow between the Port of Mariel and our Port of Virginia which will be a strategic alliance," Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said during a three-day trip to the Communist-run island.
McAuliffe is the fourth U.S. governor to visit Cuba since both countries announced they would work to normalize relations just over a year ago.
His 30-member delegation includes various state officials and about twenty business leaders.
The recently opened Mariel Port, just west of Havana, aims to become a major shipping center as larger ships pass through the Panama Canal and use it as a logistical hub.
"As Cuba and the United States normalize relationships, we'd like to see the Cuban companies establish Virginia as their distribution point for the United States," Thomas Capozzi, chief sales officer for the Port of Virginia, told Reuters.
According to the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, Norfolk, Virginia, ranked first - in metric tons - of 14 ports used in 2015 for exporting agricultural products from the United States to Cuba.
President Barack Obama has relaxed parts of the comprehensive trade embargo of Cuba and has asked Congress to lift it completely. Continuación...