Holland opens doors in Cuba

Netherlands Foreign Trade and Cooperation Minister Lilianne Ploumen headed a business delegation that explored business alternatives in Havana and presented a new joint venture of Unilever and Suchel.

Netherlands Foreign Trade and Cooperation Minister Lilianne Ploumen confirmed the great interest of her country’s companies to develop ties with Cuba.

Foto: Jorge Luis Baños_IPS

The creation of a joint venture in the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM) and the agreement to expand trade and economic ties brought to a perfect end the three-day visit of a Dutch delegation to Cuba, headed by Netherlands Foreign Trade and Cooperation Minister Lilianne Ploumen.

The British-Dutch company Unilever and the Cuban firm Intersuchel negotiated an agreement for an investment of 35 million dollars to build a modern factory for the production of toiletries and other home cleaning products.

 

The associates announced last Monday that the plant, under the name of Unilever Suchel S.A., will start operations in late 2017 for the marketing of brand products like Sedal, Rexona, OMO, Lux and Close-Up. The president of Unilever for Mexico and the Caribbean, Fabio Prado, announced to the press that the future plant will create 300 direct job posts and will make it possible to offer the national market quality products, with international prestige.

 

According to the visitor, the changes introduced by the current law on foreign investment in Cuba, as well as the fiscal advantages and other benefits offered by the Mariel ZED, generate conditions to build powerful projects, on more solid foundations. With Unilever Suchel S.A. there are already nine projects authorised in this development zone located some 40 kilometres west of Havana.

 

During the official ceremony to announce the joint venture, Minister Ploumen said that the presence of Unilever in Cuba and the authorisation to found that new entity are a first success in a long road with a view to expanding bilateral cooperation.

The British-Dutch Unilever and the Cuban Suchel will build a factory in the Mariel Special Development Zone, the ninth project authorised by the Cuban government in that place.

The British-Dutch Unilever and the Cuban Suchel will build a factory in the Mariel Special Development Zone, the ninth project authorised by the Cuban government in that place.

 

The British-Dutch transnational is returning to the largest of the Caribbean islands after a three-year pause. It worked with Suchel in an economic association from 1994 to 2012. The return is a show of trust in the country, said Prado. Unilever will own the majority of the shares of the new joint venture, 60 per cent, according to the announcement made by both sides.

 

“We are happy about what happened today,” commented Ploumen in the ceremony for the presentation of the joint venture, which was also attended by the general director of the ZEDM Office, Teresa Igarza, the president of Intersuchel S.A., Pedro Fraga, and the representative of Unilever for Mexico and the Caribbean.

 

The British-Dutch transnational, with sales in 190 countries for a total of some 50 billion euros (equivalent to 54 billion dollars), owns 300 registered brands. It is an important global stakeholder interested not only in obtaining profits but also in the conservation of the environment as the fundamental point of business sustainability, commented Ploumen. According to the minister, the future Unilever Suchel S.A. plant will assume those environmental principles.

 

Ploumen, who travelled to Havana heading a delegation of 77 CEOs of companies from the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Holland, Curacao, Aruba and Saint Maarten), participated on Tuesday in a business forum in the Hotel Nacional de Cuba that studied alternatives to promote bilateral ties. On the Cuban side, the meeting was headed by Foreign Trade and Investment First Deputy Minister Antonio Carricarte.

 

The forum assessed matters related to renewable energy sources, maritime logistics, tourism, agriculture and health, sports and culture.

 

Ploumen affirmed that her country’s businesspeople are motivated by the commercial and investment possibilities opened in this Caribbean nation. “We hope the Dutch companies will be able to come, invest and work with the Cuban side,” the minister underlined.

 

Carricarte commented at the meeting on the Cuban policy of expanding and diversifying the island’s trade partners, highlighting the potentials of the Netherlands, located among the 10 economies with the greatest weight in exports on an international level, and the second world supplier of agricultural products.

 

The president of the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba, Orlando Hernández, reported at the forum that there are more than a dozen Dutch branches in Havana and encouraged those present to increase that participation through joint ventures. In addition to Unilever, other major companies like Heineken and Philips were also present.

 

Last year both countries signed an agreement to promote cooperation in tourism, logistics, agriculture, biotechnology and renewable energy.

 

Holland, Cuba’s second most important trade partner in Europe, exports to the largest of the Caribbean islands 107 million euros (equivalent to 116.8 million dollars) and imports from Havana 120 million euros (131 million dollars), according to data from the European country. (2016)

 

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