France agreed to create in Havana an office to increase its investments in Cuba as part of another sign of the mutual interest in speeding up the economic rapprochement between both countries. The agreement to open the representation of the French Development Agency (AFD) was signed on Friday July 29 in Havana by Cuban Foreign Trade and Investments Minister Rodrigo Malmierca and officials from the agency.
In a press release, the French foreign affairs minister announced that the opening of the office would take place before the close of this year.
He also announced that the AFD will finance projects in renewable energies, water and cleaning up, sustainable tourism, urban development, food and agriculture and transportation. Meanwhile, the Cuban minister told the press that they were already working with the agency to identify those projects.
With this step both countries are following up on the cooperation ties agreed on after the bilateral agreement to settle Cuba’s foreign debt with France and other Paris Club member countries.
The agency will finance projects that both parties consider a priority, with long-term preferential loans. The financing for the first investments will come from a 231-million-euro fund created based on the renegotiation of that debt.
But the Cuban minister specified that “the French cooperation will not come only from the agency but also through French companies that have the technological capacity to work with us.”
Meanwhile, French Ambassador Jean-Marie Bruno said that the AFD “is a development agency and it does not have the obligation to use French companies in the implementation of these projects, but, of course, we expect it will help” attract French companies.
The committee that manages that “exchange value fund” will be elected in the second half of this year during the visit to Cuba of Trade and Tourism Minister Matthias Fkel, previewed to take place soon, said Malmierca.
Though French companies are present in important joint ventures, their presence in Cuba is not high. Out 20 odd companies with representation on the island, around 10 have investments in tourism, construction and the food industry.
Malmierca said he was confident that those investments will be expanded. When signing the agreement, he announced that two French companies are among the five finalists (out of 20) of a tender for the remodelling and expansion of the Havana airport. “It is a sign of the interest major French companies have in doing business in our country,” he said. (2016)
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