Chile joined the troop of government, parliamentary and business delegations that continue landing in Cuba to strengthen political and commercial ties since the start of public talks with the United States late last year. In recent days Belgium, Mexico, Panama and Spain also joined the dozens of previous visits, while the European Union received Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez. Meanwhile, U.S. businesspeople reiterated their interest in recovering and expanding trade with the country that Washington has economically blockaded for more than five decades.
Before leaving for Brussels, Rodríguez met in Havana with his Chilean counterpart, Heraldo Muñoz, to open the way to a strengthening of political and commercial relations between both countries. “The idea is to see what can be done in terms of cooperation from Cuba to Chile and from Chile to Cuba in areas of mutual interest,” Muñoz said.
“It is a good moment to strengthen ties,” the South American foreign minister said in reference to the juncture served after December 17 last year. “Cuba is an important international actor, it has a serious diplomacy and the international context after the opening of U.S.-Cuba relations is a historic landmark.”
Coordinated by the ProChile agency, a promoter of exports from that country, the delegation was made up by government authorities and representatives of 35 companies, to “explore new trade and investment possibilities,” Muñoz said.
However, the visit’s objective was not only exploratory. As concrete steps, representatives of both countries signed six bilateral agreements on trade, health, finances and customs. One of the most important agreements, signed by the Banco Internacional de Comercio de Cuba and the Banco de Estado de Chile , opens a credit line to foster the entry of Cuban products to the Chilean market and vice versa. At the same time, the bilateral Business Committee was created, a tool to identify mutual business opportunities.
Another agreement, signed in the presence of Cuban Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca, points to the expansion of tariff preferences and products included in the trade balance.
Chile and Cuba also agreed on the promotion of cooperation in biotechnology and other health-related areas, one of the fields that both delegations defined among those with the greatest potential for exchange. Sports, air transport and agriculture were also identified. “We are interested in Cuba being able to cooperate with Chile in some areas where Cubans have particular experience, from sports to pharmaceutical products,” Muñoz announced when arriving in Havana.
Chile carried out a successful mission to the island in November 2014, when 15 of its companies held around 50 business meetings, ProChile reported. But commercial exchange is still small; in 2014 it stood at 42 million dollars, according to data from the General Department of International Economic Relations of the Chilean Foreign Ministry. The majority of this amount, 36 million, went for exports from the South American nation to the largest of the Caribbean islands. The rest, six million, was bought by Chile in cigars and rum.
Chile wants to be part of the Cuban opening process through cooperation, Muñoz said to the daily Granma, referring to the new laws and steps taken by Havana to expand ties with the rest of the world and the gradual decrease of U.S. pressures.
“Cuba is at a historic moment with this new investment law, with the development of the Mariel Zone and the new talks with the U.S.,” one of the managers of the Chilean company SAAM said. “I am surprised by this country, by its people, and in the professional sphere I believe there is a very friendly legal framework for investors,” he said. (2015)
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