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US Lawmakers Begin Cuba Trade Mission

FILE - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, delivers remarks at the public launch of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba at the National Press Club in Washington, Jan. 8, 2015.

A day after the U.S. announced it was loosening restrictions on Cuban imports, two U.S. senators began a four-day trade mission to the island.

Democratic Senators Claire McCaskill from the Midwestern state of Missouri and Amy Klobuchar from the north central state of Minnesota went to Cuba Saturday to explore the new opportunities with Cuba.

The U.S. announced Friday it was allowing small private Cuban businesses to sell goods and services to the U.S., except for food and agricultural products, alcohol, tobacco products and some textiles.

McCaskill said she was interested in finding out what the farmers in Missouri could sell to Cubans.

"I come from a very big agricultural state. We would love to sell the Cuban people more rice. We would love to sell them more chicken. And more beans and more corn. So hopefully this trip will also help my farmers at home," McCaskill said.

Travel restrictions

Meanwhile, Klobuchar talked about what other changes the U.S. and Cuba could see with the lifting of restrictions, including the opening of a U.S. embassy in Cuba.

"President [Barack] Obama has been working to bring an embassy here and that's why we're looking at making changes to that first. I think that's really important. And then the next thing would be looking at travel restrictions. We've made some changes there -- relatives have been able to come in, but I think it's really important to lift that," Klobuchar said.

Not all U.S. lawmakers have been pleased with the prospect of normalizing relations with Cuba. Some Cuban-American lawmakers strongly oppose Obama's shift in policy toward Cuba, while others say it is past time to end the more than five-decades-old U.S. embargo against the island country.

Obama announced late last year that he and Cuban President Raul Castro were working together to normalize relations between the two countries.

Some material for this report came from AFP and Reuters.