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Havana. November 5, 2014

FIHAV 2014: An ideal opportunity to strengthen commercial ties with Cuba

Livia Rodríguez Delis & Lorena Sánchez García

Given the important role of foreign capital in the socio-economic development of Cuba, the 32nd Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV 2014) has become the ideal place to promote the country’s principal projects open to international investors.

The Caribbean’s largest trade fair is taking place the first week of November, in Havana, with the participation of more than 1,000 businesspeople from 60 countries, attracted by the diverse new opportunities offered, in all sectors of the economy, including those planned for the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM).

During the fair’s inauguration, Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz described opportunities opening up in Cuba, enhanced by the new facilities available at the port of Mariel and the country’s Foreign Investment Law no.118, approved earlier this year.

In addition to inviting visiting businesspeople to use the opportunity to identify possible business projects of benefit to both Cuba and their companies, Malmierca encouraged Cuban enterprises to take advantage of the Fair to seek investors and promote trade.

The minister also referred to U.S. harassment of banking institutions which have relations with Cuba, enforcing the unilaterally imposed blockade extraterritorially – a hostile policy overwhelmingly rejected by the international community in the United Nations General Assembly.

“This conduct contrasts sharply with the decision made recently by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to remove Cuba from its list of countries being monitored, in recognition of its efforts to prevent criminal money laundering and the financing of terrorist groups,” he said.

Malmierca reiterated Cuba’s willingness to conduct a respectful dialogue with the United States based on sovereign equality, despite differences, and maintain cooperation on issues of shared concern such as Ebola.

The minister stated that despite the negative impact of the blockade, and an unstable economic situation internationally, Cuba continues to honor its obligations, recuperating the financial credibility of its economy, adding that the country’s growth rate - 2.7% in 2013 - has been maintained at a modest level.

“As has been reported, figures from the first part of the year show a modest increase in performance, which, while indicating a decline with respect to last year, is a positive reflection of this more recent period.”

He emphasized the broad representation of member countries of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, with a significant number of delegations attending, while congratulating the country’s principal trading partners - Venezuela, China, Russia and Spain - for their extensive participation.

On a day specially dedicated to Russia, Malmierca commented that President Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to the island, and related high level discussions, have had a positive impact on economic ties between the two countries.

With the President of Tartarstan Rustam Nurgaliyevich Minnikhanov on hand, Malmierca emphasized the potential opportunities available to Russian enterprises, given the opening of the Mariel Special Development Zone and the country’s new foreign investment law.

The visiting President highlighted his country’s broad representation in FIHAV 2014, clear evidence of the interest Tartarstian businesses have in Cuba’s portfolio of investment projects.

Bolivia’s delegation included 20 companies, and occupied a large area of 170 square meters, a higher level of participation as compared to previous Fairs.

During the inauguration of Bolivia’s exhibit, with the country’s ambassador in Cuba Palmiro Soria in attendance, Ileana Nuñez, deputy minister of Foreign Trade and Investment noted the increase and diversification of Bolivia’s participation, reflecting the strengthening of economic relations between the two countries, a goal established in 2013 with Bolivian Minister Teresa Morales.

Ileana Nuñez explained that despite the global economic crisis and the U.S. blockade, Cuba is undertaking a process of updating its economic model, including work by the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, and other institutions, to improve the country’s balance of trade, recuperate its productive capacity and improve efficiency, via the promotion and diversification of exports, the replacement of imports with domestic products, international cooperation and restructuring of industry, while at the same time protecting social justice and equality.

Cuba is China’s most important trading partner in the Caribbean, said Wang Jinzhen, vice president of China’s international trade council, during China’s National Day at the Fair, reporting that the volume of trade between the two countries now has a value of some 1.8 billion dollars. He commented that since Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Cuba, relations have reached a new stage.

“Since we have been participating in FIHAV, we continue to note an increased representation of our companies with quality products, demonstrating that our businesspeople are very much interested in the Cuban market.”

Zhang Tuo, China’s ambassador in Cuba, commented that the two countries are in a good position to increase trade, saying, “With the new foreign investment law, you have readied the terrain, while we are attempting to make our enterprises transnational. Thus China has today become, for the first time, a net investor.”


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