Congressionally Led Trade Mission to Cuba, October 14 - 18, 2015
Kegler Brown attorney Luis Alcalde and Milton Sanchez-Parodi M.D., CEO of Vista Trade Group, organized Ohio's first Congressionally led trade mission to Cuba. After months of discussions between Alcalde and Dr. Parodi with the Cuban government, and much preparation, a delegation of major northeast Ohio companies led by their CEO's, Congressman Tim Ryan and State Representative Sean O'Brien traveled to Havana with Alcalde and Parodi during the dates of October 14 through the 18th.
To achieve the most during their four days the trade mission pursued a dual track of meetings while in Cuba. To obtain the U.S. perspective on the recent regulatory and political changes the entire group met with Jeffrey DeLaurentis, Charge D'Affairs at the U.S. Embassy to Cuba. Among many interesting points made by Ambassador DeLaurentis was his reflection that the U.S. side is finally gaining much better insights as to how business is conducted in Cuba by Cuban state companies and the growing private sector. As the U.S. Ambassador pointed out, when countries don't speak to each other for nearly sixty years it is hard to learn about how each other operates and thinks.
Congressman Ryan and Representative O'Brien met with senior members of the Foreign Ministry, including Josefina Vidal, Director for U.S. Affairs in the Cuban Foreign Ministry. Ryan and O'Brien also met with senior members of Cuba's National Assembly, toured medical facilities, studied Cuba's much touted program to reduce infant mortality and visited a junior high school to learn about Cuba's educational system.
On the business side, Alcalde led the group of CEO's and Executives which included Sam Covelli (Covelli Enterprises), Ron Klingle (Avalon Holdings), Ted Bloom (Bloom Industries), Joe Kerola (PI&I Motor Express, Inc.), Russ Sewell (Quality Switch), Kurt Gramley (Edgewood Surgical Hospital), Dave Hanson (Tri-Tech LED Systems), Bill Phillips Jr., (Niles Expanded Metals, Niles International) Sam Miller (Trumbull Industries), Mark Hudson (Hudson Construction), Dan Peart (B.J. Alan Co.), Gregg Rossi (La Barba Cigars), and Tom Zidian (Summer Garden Food Manufacturing) to the Mariel Special Development Zone and in meetings with various economic ministries including tourism, industry and energy. Alcalde and Russ Sewell spend several hours inspecting the electrical infrastructure in Central and Old Havana with technicians of the National Electric Union (Cuba's national electric utility) and exchanging ideas on possible upgrades to the electrical grid that could be provided by Ohio companies. As a result of the trade mission several business opportunities available under the current regulations or when the embargo is lifted were identified. The Ohio companies and their Cuban counterparts expect to continue their dialogue.
Trade Mission to Cuba, September 5 - 9, 2010
Vista Trade Group organized and led Ohio's first agricultural trade mission to Cuba to include representatives of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, and private companies representing various sectors of Ohio agriculture, food production, and sales. During their four days in Cuba mission participants met with numerous Cuban officials representing Alimport, the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, the Cuban Department of Agriculture, the Cuban Institute of Veterinary Medicine, the Department of Interior Quarantine, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Commerce and Investments, and the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations.
The Vista Trade Group mission was the first from the state of Ohio to encompass representatives of government, academia, and private companies to meet with so many high level Cuban officials. Talks between mission participants and Cuban officials included discussions of specific export opportunities for a variety of Ohio agricultural and food products and a discussion of the broader political issues complicating the establishment of normal commercial ties between the two countries. In order to conduct market studies and better appreciate the market in Cuba, mission participants also visited several state operated as well as privately run food and consumer product markets in Havana. Mission participants also visited and spoke with a variety of Cubans outside of government to learn about Cuban history, art, music, and culture and ate in both state run and privately operated restaurants.
The Vista Trade Group mission resulted in identifying several export opportunities for Ohio products of interest to Cuba's Alimport, a better understanding by mission participants of Cuban procedures to process and finalize sales to Alimport, the establishment of numerous personal relations beneficial to future export pursuits, and a greater knowledge and understanding of Ohio agricultural products by Cuban officials.
Havana, Cuba February 2005
Vista Trade Group held its February event and exhibited over 70 products from over 30 companies. The 3-day event was very successful, resulting in orders and commitments from Alimport to purchase a significant amount of products from over 10 different companies. The major Cuban firms servicing the retail and foodservice sectors attended the event. Significant knowledge was gained not only by the Cuban firms, but also by Vista Trade Group and its clients as to the opportunities and possibilites offered by the Cuban market and by the US providers.
Alimport's US-Cuba Trade Round - Dec. 2004
As the third anniversary of the first American commercial shipment to Cuba neared, Alimport was pleased to invite the members of the US agribusiness, port, and transportation communities to visit Cuba and review the achievements, opportunities and challenges of the Cuba-US trade December 15-19, 2004.
The occasion was also used to enter into mutually beneficial supply contracts designed to meet part of Cuba's food and agricultural commodity demand for the first half of 2005. Subject to competitive terms, the participating firms stood the best chance of being awarded important contracts. Over $100 million worth of supply agreements were negotiated and signed during this event.
Since the resumption of the existing one-one and cash-only Cuba-US trade, Alimport has signed more than $1 billion worth of contracts and made timely cash payments of $925 million to its American providers.