NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - "It's a big thing for Louisiana, and we're excited to play a big part of it," Port of New Orleans President Gary LaGrange said.
In what's being called a milestone in cooperation, Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana port officials signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday with Cuba in an effort to explore trade opportunities.
"Looking ahead, when the embargo is lifted we want to make sure Louisiana is in a place where we can resume that relationship when it comes to athletics, trade, tourism, across the board," Edwards said.
"It's an agreement to work together from a marketing standpoint and also work together, possibly enter into a joint marketing venture," LaGrange said.
LaGrange said it could also be about sharing information and knowledge that has to do with trade lanes.
"It has to do with volumes of cargo, trade routes and new trends that are occurring and also sharing technological types of information with the new IT world that we're in now," LaGrange said.
Even though it's not an official trade agreement because the embargo restricts it, it's a document of intent. Before the embargo, Louisiana and Cuba were robust trade partners.
"Principally, a lot of good products such as sugar and coffee and so on. With that being said, we never left Cuba, so to speak - even with the embargo - and attempted to stay in touch and keep our foot in the door all these years," LaGrange said.
LaGrange said Cuba is on the horizon, and while it's a cash-poor country, it will ramp up construction and eventually develop more of its middle class. He believes that will be a key factor to developing more consumers.
LaGrange is extremely positive about the future between Louisiana and Cuba.
"I see bright lights. I see great things in more ways than one," LaGrange said.