Port of New Orleans Chief Operating Officer Brandy Christian joined Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards in signing a memorandum of understanding with Cuba on Oct. 4 pledging to expand trade and commerce opportunities between Louisiana and the Caribbean nation, according to a prepared statement.

The agreement also calls for joint marketing and information sharing efforts to meet those objectives.

“The proximity and historical relationship between Cuba and the Port of New Orleans has us well-positioned should the trade embargo be lifted, and we are prepared to play an important role in trade when the time comes,” said Christian, who signed the MOU with Gov. Edwards and Director General Manuel Fernandez Perez Guerra of the National Port Administration of Cuba. “We look forward to working closely with Cuban ports and trade authorities to grow opportunities and nurture long-standing relationships that will be mutually beneficial. In the meantime, we will continue to efficiently handle those products that can be legally shipped to Cuba, often by Louisiana-based companies.”

Port of New Orleans officials traveled to Havana Oct. 3-7 as part of a 50-member delegation that included Gov. Edwards, Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson, Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson and other state, regional, local, educational and private business leaders. The trip set the stage for greater economic and cultural exchanges between Cuba and Louisiana, and included meetings with Cuban government ministers of trade, agriculture and foreign affairs.

“There remains much work to be done before our nation’s embargo on broader trade with Cuba is lifted. However, there are new opportunities that can benefit Louisiana, and I am optimistic that we will be able to build on our existing trade partnership with Cuba following this bipartisan visit,” said Gov. Edwards. “We want Louisiana to be first in line to any new opportunities with Cuba, particularly the import, export and foreign direct investment possibilities that could range into the billions of dollars in the coming years. For those reasons, we are eager to embark on this trade mission and to place Louisiana in a unique position of leadership with respect to Cuba.”

Prior to the 1962 trade embargo enacted by President John F. Kennedy, the Port of New Orleans was a top trading partner with Cuba exporting agricultural and manufactured goods to the island nation.

Through the years of the embargo, the Port of New Orleans has participated in numerous trade missions and diplomacy visits to Cuba. Since 2010, more than 100,000 pounds of poultry have been exported via the Port to Cuba through a special allowance by the U.S. government. For the past decade, Louisiana has ranked as the No. 1 U.S. state exporting to Cuba, with more than $1.4 billion in cumulative exports.

The Port of New Orleans is also well-positioned for cruise travel to Cuba as tourism becomes more relaxed between the U.S. and Cuba.