U.S. business leaders assess Cuba business climate _lowres

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue, left, talks with Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, right, in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, May 27, 2014. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce Delegation arrived today to Cuba to explore the business climate at the island. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

The importance of trade and international ties is a lot more visible in Louisiana than almost anywhere in the world. With the Mississippi River running through the state, with petrochemical facilities so visible, the barges and tank cares underline for anyone willing to look how important it is to have easy access to the world’s markets.

That’s true of farms and ranches, just as much. A majority of Louisiana’s farm commodities are raised for export, and free-trade agreements facilitate those transactions, according to Louisiana’s agriculture secretary, Mike Strain. He is eager to see more markets for our foods and goods in Cuba, if trade can be developed with the island.

All that, though, can be damaged without a healthier attitude in the nation’s capital about trade and international relations.

In a recent visit to Baton Rouge, Thomas Donohue, president and chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the nation’s leaders have to figure out a trade policy solution that would allow the economy to grow faster than the sluggish 2 percent seen for the last decade or so.

"The president of the United States has proven in many examples of late that when he gets better informed he moderates his view," Donohue said, a direct allusion to President Donald Trump’s anti-trade comments during the late campaign.

The chamber, and its local counterparts in Louisiana, supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement, both criticized by Trump. We think that Louisiana’s interest in trade ought to be a high priority for our delegation in Congress, as well as the state’s business leadership.

Further, the president’s new trade policies ought to embrace the potential for free-trade agreements across the Atlantic as well as the Pacific Oceans. Today, there is the enemy of business success — uncertainty — fueled by Britain’s plans to withdraw from the European Union.

Trump applauded the “Brexit” vote and has been wobbly on the importance to the United States of not only the EU but the NATO defense alliance.

We believe the president needs to evolve on these issues.

As TPP sought to make trade on the Pacific rim easier and more productive, the same can be done with the EU, with or without Britain. But we don’t get such complex undertakings without a clear understanding from the White House that our European friends and partners are important to us.

And by us, we mean Louisiana in particular, because of our export markets for everything from wood pellets to liquefied natural gas to complex petrochemical products.