Two historic centres of economic and political power in the world, the United Kingdom and Japan, in recent days joined the countries sending delegations to Cuba to expand trade and financial ties with this Caribbean nation. Both delegations showed points of agreement on reasons and positions, already made clear during previous visits by Spanish and Dutch businesspeople, and during another by the Paris Club.
Fumio Kishida became the first Japanese foreign minister to land in Havana, on April 30, accompanied by a delegation of important Japanese companies. Almost simultaneously, about 30 companies from Great Britain and Northern Ireland, of the Cuba Initiative group, arrived to explore investment possibilities on the island.
The Japanese and British arrived spurred by the economic transformations taking place on the Caribbean island and the Havana-Washington talks to normalise their relations. While these talks promise to clear the stormy clouds the U.S. economic blockade has hung over third country companies and banks, the process of adjustments known as updating of the economic model has opened in Cuba new doors for foreign investors.
In a sort of field of mutual influence, each trade or business visit is accelerating the interest of others, even in international financial spheres, as shown by the negotiations promoted by the Paris Club.
Kishida offered the Cuban government to undertake a new large scale cooperation scheme called “non-refundable financial assistance.” In addition to consolidating economic relations between both countries and “advancing in the dialogue and cooperation on the international scene,” the foreign minister told the press.
The Japanese minister held talks with Cuban President Raúl Castro on May 2, with his counterpart Bruno Rodríguez and Vice President of the Council of Ministers Ricardo Cabrisas. He also visited the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro.
“We want to support Cuba’s efforts to update its economic model,” a Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Ken Okaniwa, said to the press. “There are Japanese companies interested in supporting it in this process,” he added.
The spokesperson also said that his country welcomes the Cuba-U.S. talks and wishes progress in these talks, considering that such advances will contribute to boosting the strengthening of economic relations between Havana and Tokyo.
Some 30 businesspeople from the financial, trade and logistics spheres and from the automobile, tourist, infrastructure and health sectors accompanied Kishida, attracted by the opportunities to do business and invest in Cuba. Those companies, which included several firms well-positioned in the international market, like Toyota, Komatsu, Mitsubishi, Sony, Mazda and Marubeni, participated in the Business Forum held on May 2 in the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, to study the possibilities of investing in those and other areas like biotechnology.
The Forum also assessed Cuba’s request to add in subsequent conferences a subcommittee on Renewable Energies. Both parties have the common aim of achieving the active participation of Japanese businesspeople in the Cuban investment process, said acting Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Ileana Núñez, who inaugurated the meeting.
Around those days, a delegation made up by 32 British businesspeople and officials from the Chamber of Commerce of London announced in Havana 400 million dollars’ worth of investments in Cuba, in prioritised sectors: agriculture, energy and tourist infrastructure, including a golf course.
“The Cuban government has made it clear that all the economic sectors, with the exception of health, education and armed forces, are open to foreign investment,” said Lord John Hutton, chairman of the Cuba Initiative group, made up since 1995 by energy, oil, gas, mining, tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and transport companies. “I believe there are good opportunities in Cuba and that we have arrived at an opportune time and made some progress,” added Hutton.
In a communiqué prior to this trade mission, the British embassy in Havana confirmed the opinion of other delegations regarding the favourable situation in Cuban relations with the United States and the European Union. “The greater interest of the European and U.S. companies together with the renewed effort of the Cuban government in attracting foreign investments,” said the text, are “highly favourable factors for the development of trade ties.” (2015)
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