Representatives of the U.S. agricultural sector will be meeting from Wednesday to Friday in Havana with directors and specialists of the Ministry of Agriculture of Cuba to promote their relations and monitor the development of joint projects.

The second U.S.-Cuba Business Conference, sponsored by the Agricultural Coalition of both countries, continues the work begun in November 2018 with an agenda of exchanges between companies and scientists with producers, according to state media on the island.

U.S. Coalition co-chair Paul Johnson acknowledged that relations between his country and Cuba are experiencing a moment of tension, but said he still has “optimism” about the work they have been doing to improve them.

Johnson said he was “very excited” about the open discussions at this meeting, as well as the possibility of being able to continue developing the projects they have been carrying out for a long time, according to the Cuban agency Prensa Latina.

U.S. participants also include Phil Peters, representative of Focus Cuba, a business consulting firm for business in Cuba; and the executive president of the Illinois Soybean Association, Mark Albertson.

At the opening of the conference, the director of international affairs of the Ministry of Agriculture (Minag), Moraima Céspedes, stressed “the importance” of the exchange of experiences that facilitates this meeting, part of the memorandum of understanding on agricultural matters between both parties.

The directive stated that it provides information on Cuban agriculture, as well as the possibilities for foreign investment in the island’s agrifood sector.

On this first day, Minag specialist Juan José León offered North American businessmen a characterization of the agricultural sector in Cuba, and the current trends of the economy of the Caribbean country.

The event also includes visits to an agricultural cooperative in the western province of Artemisa – located 60 kilometers southwest of Havana – to places where important investments are being made in this sector and to the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in the Cuban capital.

Last November, a delegation of U.S. politicians and agricultural businessmen advocated in Havana for the lifting of the commercial and financial embargo applied by Washington to Cuba and were convinced of the benefits that the end of this measure would bring to both parties.

They alluded in this sense to data from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture of the United States (NASDA), according to which if the embargo were lifted, agricultural exchanges between both countries would reach up to 1,000 million dollars annually compared to the current 250 million.

Since he became president of the United States in January 2017, Donald Trump has toughened policy toward Cuba with reductions in diplomatic personnel and the activation of Title III of the Helms Burton Act, which allows lawsuits in U.S. courts for goods expropriated after the Revolution.

Last week, the Trump administration added new punitive measures to the island that limit family remittances and financial transactions through third countries.

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