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Last Updated: Friday, 16 April, 2004, 21:26 GMT 22:26 UK
Cuba spends $100m on US food
By Stephen Gibbs
BBC correspondent in Havana

Tourists in Havana
The US says much of the produce is destined for the tourist market
The Cuban government has agreed to buy more than $100m worth of American food and agricultural produce.

The sales come after a week of talks with US business representatives in Havana.

Food sales have been permitted since 2000 under an exception to the four-decades-old US trade embargo on Cuba.

The Cuban government says that if the embargo were lifted altogether, it would spend $1bn a year on American food products alone.

Good business

The American salesmen that have spent a week in Havana say that $100m in a week is very good business indeed.

They came from across the United States and were competing with each other to close deals with the Cuban government.

The sale was everything from wheat and corn to eggs, milk and peas.

Many of the US businessmen made a verbal pledge as they signed up to the deals that they would work hard to get the US trade embargo on Cuba lifted when back home.

US diplomats in Havana say Cuba is playing politics - not simply buying American products, but buying support to lift the embargo.

They also allege that much of the produce being bought by Cuba is destined for the profitable tourist market.

Cuba denies that, saying that 95% of its American purchases will end up as subsidised food for Cubans.

It also says that it would be looking to buy much more than food from the United States if the embargo did not exist.

Aeroplanes, factory machinery, even oil exploration technology are among the American products Cuba says it would be interested in purchasing, if only it could.


SEE ALSO:
Cuba signs $13m in US food deals
14 Apr 04  |  Business
Bush tightens US embargo on Cuba
27 Feb 04  |  Americas
US to tighten Cuba sanctions
10 Oct 03  |  Americas
Cuba awaits trade with US
21 Nov 02  |  Crossing Continents
US defends Cuba trade embargo
15 May 02  |  Americas
Country profile: Cuba
10 Oct 03  |  Country profiles


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