COLUMBIA, S.C. - Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer says he wants to go on an economic development trip to Cuba because South Carolina’s agribusiness has much to offer the island nation.
“Cuba is looking to spend money,” Bauer said. “We have vendors who can sell many things to Cuba. To me, that’s economic development.”
Bauer returned last month from Taiwan where he met with business and government officials during an economic development trip.
Generally, federal law restricts economic activities between Cuba and the United States, but easements in recent years allow exports of medicine and agricultural products.
Other states have discussed trade with Cuba, and North Carolina did at least $48,000 in business with the communist state last year, according to Export.gov.
The idea is still in its “embryonic stage,” Bauer’s chief of staff Randy Page said. But Page said Cubans and the Taiwanese have similar interests.
“They are desperate for agriculture exports and expanding manufacturing opportunities,” Page said.
Bauer’s previous trip was funded by the Taiwanese government, and he said he wouldn’t want taxpayers to fund this trip.
“If I have to, I’ll pay for it. I may use money I have in my own (political) account.”
Bauer said he has been talking with Charleston’s Jack Maybank, whose barge this July became the first U.S.-flagged commercial vessel with an all-American crew to enter Havana’s harbor since the U.S. broke relations with Cuba when Fidel Castro defeated the CIA-backed assault at the Bay of Pigs in 1961.
Maybank wants to explore more business opportunities in Cuba, Bauer said.
The United States forbids pleasure travel to the communist nation 90 miles south of Florida, but industry associations, states and businesses can visit and promote exports. To make the trip, Bauer would have to get a license from the U.S. Treasury Department.