HOUSTON - The Port of Houston has gained permission for its container vessels to sail to Cuba, the Texas Tribune reported last week. This could strengthen Texas' position as a potential trading partner with Cuba.
The trade potential is significant. In 2009, total U.S. trade with Cuba was $521 million. In 2008 it was $710 million. Last year $85 million worth of goods was sent to Cuba from Texas.
The permission was granted by the U.S. Commerce Department, the Bureau of Industry and Security and Cuba's Alimport agency. It will ease the flow of cargo through the Houston port.
Legislation is pending before the U.S. House of Representatives which would ease the draconian trade restrictions imposed by the Bush administration as well as previous administrations.
HR 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act, would allow U.S. citizens the freedom to travel to Cuba that has been denied them for many years. It would also loosen punitive financial restrictions imposed by the Bush administration in 2005. The Bush policy mandates that Cuba pre-pay for U.S. goods through a third country's banking system. This leaves the Cubans vulnerable, because the U.S. government could seize the pre-payment before the goods were delivered and then stop the delivery of the goods. No other nation in the world has to deal with such requirements.
Many Texans recognize the potential for increasing jobs as a result of easing travel and trade restrictions with Cuba. In light of the current economic and jobs crisis, it only makes sense to trade with one of our closest neighbors. It is clearly a win-win proposition.