Mayor's Office Press Release

Mayor Turner, GHP Depart for Cuba

September 25, 2016 -- Mayor Sylvester Turner and Greater Houston Partnership Board Chair Jamey Rootes are leading a 30-member delegation on a three-day investment and trade mission to Cuba.  Representatives from the Texas Medical Center, Houston Port Authority, Houston Airport System, Houston Community College, Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, United Airlines and several City Council Members and Houston based companies are accompanying the mayor on this historic trip. This is the mayor’s first trade mission and the first time a Houston mayor has visited Cuba.

“We can’t say that Houston is a world class city unless we are reaching out and establishing international relationships,” said Mayor Turner.  “This trip speaks to the special connection Houston has with Latin America.  With the changes brought about by the Obama Administration and the new direct flight between Houston and Cuba, there are opportunities to explore in the areas of healthcare, sports, energy, trade and the arts.  I want to begin the delicate process of drawing Houston and Cuba closer together.”

"We want Cuba to think of Houston as its preferred partner and gateway to America," said Greater Houston Partnership President & CEO Bob Harvey.  "More than a decade ago, the business community voiced its support for opened relations with the country. We are excited about the opportunity to strengthen ties with Cuba."

Plans for this trade mission began in late 2015 when U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis visited Houston as part of the U.S. State Department’s Experience America program. Houston made a strong impression, and the ambassador quickly returned for another visit after Mayor Turner took office.

The trade delegation’s itinerary includes meetings with Ambassador DeLaurentis and the Cuban Ministers of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Energy and Mines, Tourism and Public Health as well as the Cuban National Institute of Sports.

The U.S. and Cuba are natural trade partners, especially in the area of U.S. agricultural exports.  In 2014, Cuba imported nearly $2 billion of agricultural products.  It is estimated that shipments between Texas and Cuba will increase to $18.8 million.  These exports to Cuba would have a total economic impact of nearly $43 million.  Cuban imports from Texas also include oil, machinery, automobiles, iron and steel.  The Port of Houston would likely be a major benefactor of this increased activity.

On July 20, 2015, the U.S. and Cuba restored full diplomatic ties for the first time in 50 years when they reopened their embassies in each other’s capitals.

United Airlines begins nonstop flights to Cuba from Bush Intercontinental Airport on November 29.