By James Thompson

HOUSTON – According to an article in the Texas Tribune on 4/28/10, the Port of Houston has gained permission for its container vessels to sail to Cuba. This development could strengthen Texas’ position as a trading partner with the island nation.

The trade potential is significant. In 2009, the U.S. total trade with Cuba was $521 million. In 2008 it was $710 million. $85 million worth of goods was sent to Cuba from Texas in 2009.

Restrictive trade laws implemented by the Bush administration made trade with Cuba extremely difficult. The policy change was approved 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 port.

Current 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. H.R. 4645, the Travel Restriction Reform and Export Enhancement Act would allow U.S. citizens the freedom to travel to Cuba which has been denied them for many years. It would also loosen punitive financial restrictions imposed by the Bush administration in a retaliatory move in 2005. The Bush policy mandates that Cuba pre-pay for its 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 this punitive trade policy.

Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership, states, “The potential economic impact on our nation and region is really too great not to proactively explore restoration of trade with Cuba.” He calls for achieving “peace through commerce.”

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.