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Posted December 18, 2004 by publisher in Cuba-US Trade

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We have editorialized in recent weeks about the trade missions that Maine business and governmental leaders have been making to other countries.
Given the success of those trips, our support for them continues to grow.

Given the success of those trips, our support for them continues to grow.

The trade missions have included visits to Germany and Italy and, most recently, Cuba.

The first trip to Duesseldorf and Milan has generated about $1 million so far in the sale of products and services, ranging from seafood to wood products and medical equipment to environmental consulting.

The trip to Havana, however, has provided a boost to the Maine economy that no one was expecting, at least not so soon. Cuba has agreed to buy up to $10 million worth of Maine products, including potatoes, apples, dairy cattle and other farm goods.

State officials were hoping the trip to Cuba would eventually lead to contracts producing more than $1 million in sales, and they were not expecting to sign contracts while there.

To its credit, the trade delegation from Maine left the communist nation with several signed contracts in hand.

Such success is all the motivation anyone should need to continue pitching Maine products internationally. The Cuban trade mission’s surprising success shows what can happen when a determined group of Mainers sets out to win customers.

Hopefully, Cuba’s strong interest in Maine products is a sign of even better things to come as the state tries to increase exports by expanding its reach.

Compared with other states, the value of Maine’s exports is still relatively low: about $2.2 billion last year, led by computer parts, pulp and paper and lumber and wood.

But in terms of export growth, Maine ranks a solid eighth. Its total exports have experienced a 20 percent annual growth rate between 1998 to 2003. This is more than three times the nation’s annual growth rate for exports.

Maine is exporting more pulp, seafood, aircraft parts, wood and paper than ever before, while semiconductor exports have actually slipped since 1998.

Canada remains the state’s largest trading partner, accounting for 37 percent of the total. Maine also has developed strong trade relationships with Malaysia, Singapore and the United Kingdom, and is off to a strong start with Cuba.

Through September of this year, Maine’s exports are up 14 percent from the same period last year. The trade missions have clearly had a role in this.

Next up, Maine is expected to send a delegation in 2005 to one of the world’s fastest-growing export markets: China.

Maine business have every reason to be thinking that big.

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