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Statement: Visit by Ambassador of Republic of Cuba

Honourable senators, I am pleased to inform you that I was honoured to host, last September 12, 13 and 14, in my home area of northwest New Brunswick distinguished visitors, His Excellency Ernesto Senti Darias, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba, and his wife Señora Margarita Valle.

During their visit, the ambassador and his wife had the opportunity to meet with provincial cabinet ministers, members of the business community and seed potato growers. They also visited towns, farms and industries, including McCain Foods in Grand Falls and the Irving sawmill in St-Léonard. All in all, I drove the ambassador and his wife over 2,200 kilometres in four days.

Seed potato growers in the Grand Falls region have been exporting their products to Cuba since the 1950s, and have forged important economic links, which we must do more to develop. Cuba imports over $4 million worth of seed potatoes every year from our farmers in New Brunswick, making it their second biggest market after the United States.

Cuba's economy is growing steadily, in terms of both the tourism industry and infrastructure. In the next five years, the Cuban government plans to invest in residential and infrastructure construction, which will create a huge need for natural and forest resources.

I am delighted that the ambassador and his wife accepted my invitation, because Cuba is an important trading partner. Our New Brunswick exports to Cuba have increased in recent years, and I want that situation to continue. This visit was an excellent opportunity to improve trade relations between Cuba and our region, and also to help our respective rural economies develop further.