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Pingree meets with lead Cuban negotiator on US/Cuban relations

Discuss economic opportunities for both countries from normalized relations

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree met today with Josefina Vidal Ferreiro, the lead negotiator for the Cuban government in negotiations with the United States in Havana today.  Vidal, a top official in the Cuban Foreign Ministry, talked with Pingree about the economic benefits of normalizing relations between the two countries.

"There is growing bipartisan support in Congress for ending the Cuban embargo," Pingree said.  "It's only a matter of time before relations between the two countries are normalized, and the economic benefit that will come from that will be significant."

In her meeting with Vidal, Pingree emphasized the opportunities for both Americans and Cubans when US companies are able to trade freely in Cuba.  Pingree is leading a delegation of organic experts from Maine and around the country on a four-day trip to Cuba.  The group is meeting with farmers, small-business owners, educators and government officials during the trip. 

Earlier in the day, Pingree and her delegation met with officials from the Ministry of Trade, who asked Pingree to bring more companies from Maine back to Cuba to explore further opportunities to develop business relationships in Cuba.

"The two countries still are far from being on the same page when it comes to trade and business agreements, but we also have a lot in common and some common goals.  The Cubans have a commitment to organic agriculture and the companies that are with me collectively sell billions of dollars of organic products every year.  There are definitely some opportunities for both sides," Pingree said.  

Pingree says the Cuban embargo hasn't been effective.

"The embargo is a failed 50-year experiment that has not resulted in widespread economic reform in Cuba," Pingree said.  "Everyone from the Catholic Church to the Chamber of Commerce agrees that the best way to bring about progress and help the Cuban people is to create partnerships and closer relations between the US and Cuba.  President Obama got that process going, but the private sector is going to be key in keeping it going, and that's why our group is in Cuba this week."  

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