Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, the first governor from any state to visit Cuba after the newly established U.S. Embassy was opened, led a delegation consisting of 19 Arkansas businesses and representing 17 commercial and agriculture sectors. In addition, President Don Bobbitt and Vice President of Agriculture Mark Cochran represented the University of Arkansas. The trade mission, organized by the World Trade Center Arkansas, began with a business forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Cuba on September 28th. Government officials and ministers welcomed the delegation and an Agreement of Cooperation was signed between the WTC AR and the Cuban Chamber. The rest of the day was filled with business-to-business meetings. Multiple agendas allowed for more interests to be explored and more business to be discussed.
A visit to the residence of U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis was a highlight to the trip where other foreign diplomats attended and welcomed the Arkansas delegation. In the following days, many meetings took place with various departments and ministries of government so that our companies could learn the opportunities and challenges to be considered regarding future endeavors with Cuba. The group toured the Especial Economic Zone of the Port of Mariel, a deep water port on the Atlantic. The tour provided onsite viewing of Cuba’s current construction for expansion and increased cargo movement. This included 4 high speed container cranes, a huge container yard, a new temperature controlled warehouse, a dry storage warehouse and a new general office building.
The delegates learned much about the culture, politics and logistics which influence the business climate. Follow up from the meetings and contacts made affirmed that business relationships were developed and that the trip was an overall success for all who participated. The WTC AR has been encouraged to begin planning for a return trip in April 2016.