Two Iowa lawmakers leading trade mission to Cuba

The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The dome of the State Capitol building in Des Moines is shown on Tuesday, January 13, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Two Democratic state legislators announced Thursday they will lead a delegation visiting Cuba next week looking to form relationships between Cuba and Iowa in order to open up options for potential future trade.

Sen. Steve Sodders, D-Marshalltown, and Rep. Kirsten Running-Marquardt, D-Cedar Rapids, said they will be meeting with representatives from the Cuban government and business leaders to focus on fostering new business opportunities between Iowa and Cuba.

The four-day trade mission beginning next Tuesday also will include representatives of economic development, tourism, and trade interests. The timing will allow the two state legislators to be back in Iowa in time for the Jan. 11 start of the Iowa General Assembly’s 2016 session.

“These meetings in Cuba are part of ongoing efforts to improve relationships with this emerging new market located just off the coast of the United States,” said Sodders, vice chairman of the Senate Economic Growth Committee. “Iowans create many products which could find a market in Cuba. Expanded trade can bring benefits to the people of both countries.”

Sodders and Running-Marquardt will be joined by Carlos Portes, a former ambassador for Latin America. Portes — who came to the U.S. at the age of 9 and was raised by a Marshalltown family — later was appointed Special Ambassador for Latin American affairs by President Jimmy Carter.

“These meetings will be an opportunity to showcase Iowa and develop future economic growth, as well as build key relationships, “ said Running-Marquardt, ranking member of the House economic development budget subcommittee. “The United States military has made this next step possible. Without their sacrifice we would not be able to move forward to build peaceful and beneficial relationships between Iowa and Cuba.”

During last session, Sodders introduced a resolution approved by the Iowa Senate that promoted efforts to develop support for an enhanced trade relationship between Iowa and Cuba.

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