Updated 12:45 PM EST, Thu, Nov 26, 2020

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe Calls Port Agreement With Cuba a ‘Strategic Alliance’

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Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has announced a port agreement with Cuba.

On Monday, the governor said during his three-day trip that Virginia will become the first U.S. port operator to sign a cooperation agreement with its counterpart in Cuba, Raw Story reported. The move is aimed to boost trade and establish direct service with the island.

The agreement, which is between the Port of Mariel and Port of Virginia, is called by McAuliffe as "a strategic alliance," as quoted in Raw Story's report.

McAuliffe is the fourth U.S. governor to visit Cuba since a year ago, when both nations agreed to normalize diplomatic relations, the news outlet noted. His delegation has 30 members that included numerous state officials and around twenty business leaders.

The governor is a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a close supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and a long-standing advocate of trade with Cuba, Yahoo! News listed. McAuliffe said that he views 2016 to be hugely important for the U.S.-Cuba relations, noting that the U.S. could allow more open travel to the island.

McAuliffe also said that the U.S. could terminate a ban on American businesses operating on Cuba on credit, the news outlet noted. Cuba has pointed to the credit limit as the primary reason for sharply reducing purchases of goods from U.S. states including Virginia.

"I think 2016 is going to be a very big year. This is an important legacy item for President Obama," McAuliffe said, as quoted by Yahoo! News. "I think this is the year we can get an awful lot of things done: normalization of relations, extending credit, open travel. These are all things I hope to accomplish this year. I think we can do it."

He also said that the delegation, which includes representatives from pork manufacturer Smithfield Foods and poultry producer Perdue Farms, aims to raise and expand Virginia's export to Cuba, which consist mostly of apples, wine, and soy products, Raw Story noted.

On Monday, McAuliffe met with Cuba's top foreign trade official and observed the leaders of the University of Havana and Virginia Commonwealth University sign an agreement for academic cooperation and exchanges, Yahoo! News further reported. He is also expected to sign a similar memorandum of accord on Tuesday concerning the Port of Virginia and Cuba's recently opened Mariel port and free trade zone.

When asked whether he would depart Cuba laden with new deals for Virginia businesses, McAuliffe deflected queries and said that his visit is all about "building relationships for the future," Yahoo! News added.

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