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Havana. November 11, 2014

FIHAV 2014
Building bridges between Cuba
and the world

Livia Rodríguez Delis

The recently concluded 32nd edition of the Havana International Trade Fair was one of the most productive, in terms of concretizing new projects, which should contribute to the dynamism of Cuba’s economy, according to organizers.

Juan Manuel García, development director for the Spanish company Escribanos, said the company is seeking to establish strategic alliances with key Cuban entities, to provide technology and knowledge.

FIHAV 2014 further established the fair as the ideal place to develop stronger, more efficient commercial relations, with well-defined objectives, as evidenced during the presentation of the country’s portfolio of investment opportunities; of guarantees offered by the new foreign investment law - No.118 approved this year; and progress being made within the recently inaugurated Mariel Special Development Zone.

During the fair’s closing ceremony, Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, a Council of Ministers vice president, commented that this year’s fair was a landmark event, the first devoted to the promotion of foreign investment, and was characterized as well by greater technological development, careful preparation, and the presentation of high quality products.

He clarified that the portfolio of proposals for foreign investors was not a list of interesting ideas, but rather projects with well-defined objectives reflecting the country’s Economic and Social Development Program, which was conceived with the participation of foreign capital taken into consideration.

Cabrisas explained that the attraction of foreign investment is being prioritized, with the goal of stimulating the production of goods and services, and encouraged Cuban enterprises to not only maintain and develop the commercial ties established during the Fair, but to continue investigating countries where they could forge new relations, to acquire capital and technology.

Leaders of Cuban enterprises have acquired greater responsibility as a result of decisions made to separate government’s regulatory responsibilities from those of management, which imply greater autonomy and authority in running socialist state enterprises, with more flexibility and decentralization, Cabrisas said.

Cabrisas thanked the many business people and official delegations for their participation, which he said reflected growing interest in the Fair on an international level.

PRIZEWINNERS

On the final evening of the event, as is customary, prizes were awarded for best product, exhibit, and design, as well as in other categories. Cuba, Brazil and Spain were the big winners with gold medals and honorable mentions for quality products and design, among other distinctions.

In the category of Best Pavilion, acknowledged were Germany, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico. With the most exhibitors in attendance, 132, was Spain, while Brazil showed the greatest growth in participation.

BUSINESS LEADERS COMMENT

There is no other event in the region as well organized and attended as FIHAV, according to Basque businessman Ignacio Uriarte, president of the companies Idurgo (luxury flatware) and Capeans (luxury tableware), also representing Vicrila which manufactures crystalware.

The companies - Idurgo, 55 years on the market; Capeans, 70; and Vicrila, 125 - are well known in Spain for the quality and elegance of their products, which can be found in everyday Spanish homes and royal residences.

"Neither Chile, Argentina, or Colombia have a fair like Havana’s, with this number of exhibitors from the Americas and Europe, for example. Here we have established business with a small plant in Uruguay to train them to make our products. This Fair is key for everyone."

As for the opportunities opening up in Cuba, Uriarte said, "We have been established in Cuba for 24 years. We have a joint company with the Cuban government to manufacture flatware, which is not operating at this time, but we want to establish a strong presence.

"We are definitely going to start up the flatware factory located in Santiago de Cuba, the dish factory in the Isle of Youth, and the crystalware one in the Havana municipality of La Lisa."

Uriarte was confident that the three plants will be operating in 2015, equipped with modern technology and the latest machinery, ready to produce approximately 300 million glasses and 30 million dishes annually.

"The Santiago de Cuba factory will become a joint enterprise, administered totally by Idurgo, and there, as in the other facilities, we will contribute the know-how and equipment, while Cuba will supply the workforce and qualified personnel. Within three years, they will be handed over to Cuban management."

His experience allows him to see that supplying the tourist sector provides a foundation for the projects, and makes possible a strong presence on the island, which should lead to further commercial ties.

"Now with the new foreign investment law, the conditions are optimal to invest in Cuba, in terms of taxes on localization and the workforce, and other guarantees offered by the Cuban government. This interests business people and, after 24 years, we are not going to miss the opportunity."

SPAIN OFFERS PRECISION ENGINEERING

Located on the outskirts of Madrid, since 1998, is the family-owned company Escribanos, which sent its director of development, Juan Manuel García, to the Havana Fair with another view of entering the Cuban market.

The company specializes in fabricating precision mechanical parts for aviation and other industries needing high quality components.

The specialized machinery produced by Escibanos can be used to manufacture landing gear for aircraft, and adapted to produce a variety of parts for other sectors.

The company is looking to not only sell its equipment in Cuba, but hopes to establish a strategic alliance with key enterprises. Escibanos is prepared to transfer technology and knowledge to expand the island’s industrial capacity, to support the country’s ability to autonomously maintain the equipment throughout its useful life.

"We cannot supply equipment which contributes any benefit in the medium or long term. We therefore see the transfer of technology, of knowledge and support to the industrialization of the country, as a much more effective vehicle for the receiving country," García said.

"There are other advantages. You create trained personnel, acquire technology which can serve as a base for a diverse supply of machinery parts for other sectors, more sophisticated ones, or with specific characteristics, for Cuban companies."

In addition to acquiring other contacts during the Fair, the Spanish company met Cuban companies interested in training, Garcia reported, saying, "They have requested help in training specifically in the use of machines with five shafts, given the considerable number of machines of this type we have in our factories, and our industrial experience."
 

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