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President Barack Obama has talked about lifting this country's trade embargo with Cuba and if it happens, one company says they'll be forced to layoff more than 100 workers in the Richmond area.

The cigar-maker Swedish Match has its North American headquarters in Richmond and it says opening the U.S. market to Cuban cigars may jeopardize 120 jobs.

Cuban-born Omar Gonzalez savors the flavor of his cigar and he also savors the prospect of legally lighting up a Cuban-made cigar if the Cuban trade embargo is lifted.

Cuba has a reputation for producing a fine quality cigars and cigar maker Swedish Match wants to get into the game.

Gerry Roerty with Swedish Match says, "We estimate that 80% of the cigar consumers would switch to Cuban cigars once they're available in the U.S. Market."

The problem for Swedish Match is that they and other cigar companies might not have a chance to sell Cuban-Made cigars because Imperial Tobacco P.L.C. of Bristol, England has an exclusive arrangement with Cuba and a 50% stake in its cigar business.

Roerty says if Congress doesn't intervene when it talks trade with Cuba, Imperial Tobacco would be the only company selling Cuban cigars in the U.S. through a U.S. subsidiary, and the result could be catastrophic for other cigar companies.

He says thousands of jobs could be lost, including 120 in Richmond.

Roerty says, "What we would like to see is that all American companies would have the same rights as Imperial Tobacco does to sell Cuban cigars in the market."

Roetry knew this was coming, which is why the company strategically placed its U.S. Headquarters in Richmond, just a stone's throw away from Washington.

Source: CBS6

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