December 19, 2004 in Nation/World

Cuba to buy U.S. goods

Vanessa Arrington Associated Press
 

HAVANA — Cuba has agreed to buy about $125 million in farm goods from U.S. companies attending trade talks in Havana, officials said.

The deals, which were agreed on during three days of negotiations that ended Friday, surpassed expectations, Pedro Alvarez, chairman of the Cuban food import company Alimport, told the Associated Press.

Cuba had expected to sign deals worth about $100 million going into the talks, he said.

More than 300 people, primarily producers of American farm goods, attended the meetings, as did several lawmakers — including Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.

On Thursday, Cuban President Fidel Castro addressed the group for several hours on subjects ranging from Cuba’s health care system to a recent government decision to take the American dollar out of circulation on the island.

Despite the positive vibes, Alvarez on the opening day of talks told the group that recent actions by the U.S. government prompted the Cuban government to buy some farm products from countries other than the United States.

Under an exception to the embargo, American agricultural goods can be sold to the island on a cash-only basis. Including this week’s deals, Cuba has contracted to buy more than $1 billion in American farm goods — including shipping and hefty bank fees to send payments through third nations — since it began taking advantage of the exception in 2001.

© Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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