April 20, 2017 / 1:42 AM / in 6 months

Trump and Cuba should start dialogue: Mississippi governor says

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (C), looks on at a meeting with Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca (not pictured) in Havana, Cuba, April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

HAVANA (Reuters) - The Trump administration and the Cuban government need to start a dialogue, the Republican governor of Mississippi said on Wednesday during a trip to the Communist-led island to scout trade opportunities for his state.

“That’s the first step: trying to get that dialogue going in a very positive manner,” Phil Bryant said in an interview, adding that he had found his trip “encouraging.”

Cuba watchers are looking closely for signs of how President Donald Trump will deal with the country, given he threatened during his campaign to roll back the fragile detente between the Untied States and Cuba, former Cold War foes.

The White House is undertaking a “full review” of America’s foreign policy toward Cuba, press secretary Sean Spicer said in February.

Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (L), meets with Cuba's Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca in Havana, Cuba, April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

The governor, who had just met with Cuba’s trade minister, said it was key “not let too much of the political conditions in the United States become overwhelming.”

“Sometimes people have a narrative of Mississippi as if it’s 1960s, and it’s not, and it’s not the 1960s in Cuba,” he said, citing changes like growth of private businesses.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro stunned the world in December 2014 when they announced the United States and Cuba would restore diplomatic ties after more than half a century of hostility.

Even with a U.S. embargo preventing most trade with Cuba, Mississippi already exports authorized products to the island such as frozen poultry and healthcare products, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

There was room to increase that trade and as establish exchanges in healthcare and research, including perhaps bringing Cuban doctors to the Mississippi Delta, said Bryant.

Reporting by Sarah Marsh

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