The news crops up and falls one after the other attracted by the force of gravity of the prospects of reconciliation between the United States and Cuba. Four days after shaking Raúl Castro’s hand at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, Barack Obama decided to exclude the Caribbean nation from the list of countries sponsoring terrorism.
Very much awaited ever since four months ago both governments started talks to re-establish diplomatic relations, this order was announced to Congress by the U.S. president on April 14. Precisely that day, a delegation of Spanish businesspeople was visiting Havana with the explicit intention of expanding business with Cuba. The coincidence is not by chance.
Foreign companies are landing to explore investment opportunities with the hope that the greatest obstacle faced by them until now to trade and invest in Cuba disappears: the policy of aggressions and economic blockade maintained for more than half a century by Washington against that Caribbean neighbouring country. They are also hurrying up before the feared U.S. competition enters the island’s scene.
One can guess the reasons from what the head of the Spanish mission, Secretary of State for Commerce Jaime García-Legaz, said. “Spain cannot be absent,” he said, referring to the transformations undertaken by Cuba in its economic model and to the new investment opportunities derived from this. It would be a mistake to not be present, he said.
“Our intention is to strengthen the backing to Spanish companies so they can do business with Cuba, in this new stage of changes favouring a greater participation of foreign capital on the island,” he commented to the press.
García-Legaz only spoke about the Cuba-U.S. talks when the press directly asked him about this. “Everything that means approaching relations between countries and reducing tensions is undoubtedly positive, and is a new scenario in which Spain wants to participate actively.”
The delegation is made up by some 45 businesspeople from that European country, in addition to the vice president of the Spanish Confederation of Business Organisations, Joaquín Gay de Montella, and the vice president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, Modesto Piñeiro.
They participated in a Business Forum with industry representatives of the host country, in the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, to get to know the investment strategy approved by the island’s government last year. With the same objective, they met with Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca and with ministers of sectors in which they are particularly interested: tourism, energy and construction.
According to statements by García-Legaz, Spain inaugurated a credit line directed at promoting that country’s exports to Cuba, in addition to creating a non-banking institution to back Spanish risk investments in the Cuban archipelago, and to eliminate commercial obstacles.
Reports presented at the business forum indicate that in 2014 commercial exchange between both countries stood at more than two billion euros, while the amount for investments reached 250 million euros. These figures place Spain as Cuba’s third trade partner in the world and the first in Europe.
In the face of the Cuban government’s manifest intention of strongly expanding foreign investments – last year a new law was approved with this aim and an Opportunities Portfolio was presented with more than 200 projects -, García-Legaz was emphatic: “It’s preferable that Spanish companies do it instead of others.” (2015)
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