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Last Updated: Monday, 12 December 2005, 12:51 GMT
US state signs Cuban trade deal
Alimport chairman Pedro Alvarez, left, clasps hands with Maine Governor John Baldacci after signing the trade deal in Havana, Cuba
The agreement was signed in Havana
The governor of the US state of Maine, John Baldacci, has signed a multi-million dollar trade deal with Cuba's state-run food agency Alimport.

Under the deal, Alimport will buy Maine products worth $20m (11.3m) by July 2007,including seed potatoes, fish and dairy cattle.

Mr Baldacci is due to meet Cuban President Fidel Castro later on Monday.

Food sales on a cash basis to Cuba are legal under a federal law from 2000 - an exception to the US trade embargo.

We are working within the existing framework, trying to show other states the ability to trade with Cuba
Maine Governor John Baldacci
In 2001, Maine was the first US state to pass a resolution calling for a complete end to the trade and travel ban against the Caribbean nation.

Mr Baldacci said that, during his trip, he hoped to see his country's relations with Cuba normalised step-by-step.

"We are working within the existing framework, trying to show other states the ability to trade with Cuba," he told a news conference.

Mr Baldacci - the third state governor to travel to the island this year for trade talks - added that Maine farmers and businessmen supported his trip.

"All want to do business and build better relations with Cuba."

'Lobbyists'

A US trade embargo on the Caribbean country has been in force for more than 40 years.

Correspondents say US farmers and politicians have become some of Cuba's top lobbyists, pushing for restrictions to be lifted.

Since food sales to Cuba on a cash basis were approved by Congress, Cuba has grown to become the 26th largest market for US agricultural exports.


SEE ALSO:
Prominent Cuba dissident released
02 Dec 05 |  Americas
Cuba announces major salary rises
24 Nov 05 |  Americas
US withdraws relief offer to Cuba
03 Nov 05 |  Americas
Cuba, US slated on family rights
20 Oct 05 |  Americas
Cuba worried at US export change
25 Feb 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Cuba
26 Oct 05 |  Country profiles


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