The Cuban capital was once again host to entrepreneurs and businesspeople from more than 70 countries, meeting to discuss prospects for trade and investment.
“The Havana International Fair (FIHAV) continues to consolidate itself today as a highly representative, multisectorial trade event in Latin America and the Caribbean,” stated Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, upon inaugurating the event October 30.
Malmierca reported that since the last edition of the fair, a significant number of foreign capital businesses have been approved, in strategic sectors of the economy such as renewable energy, tourism, construction, mining and oil exploration, together with financial services and industry, especially the light, food processing, and sugar industries.
In terms of foreign investment, there has been modest progress as regards the materialization of new businesses, both inside and outside the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM), as well as reinvestments in several of the existing projects, the minister noted.
He added that, so far this year, businesses have been established for a total committed capital amount of more than 2 billion dollars. In addition, several projects are in the advanced stage of negotiations, with real possibilities to be approved before the end of the year.
Attending the FIHAV 3017 opening ceremony were Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, a vice president of the Council of Ministers and minister of Economy and Planning; Ulises Guilarte de Nacimiento, member of the Party Political Bureau and general secretary of the Cuban Workers’ Federation (CTC); ministers of various sectors of the economy and other government authorities.
This 35th edition of the Fair brought together some 3,400 exhibitors and saw the presence of Cuba’s main trading partners: Venezuela, Russia, China and Spain; the latter being the most represented country.
This high level of participation demonstrates the consolidation of the event as a space to exchange knowledge and trends, to meet suppliers, potential importers and distributors.
Some 250 bilateral meetings were held between Cuban and foreign businesspeople from more than 30 countries as part of this year’s edition. In addition, the different pavilions of the ExpoCuba fairgrounds held “national days” for several participating countries, and saw presentations of products and services, business sessions, the launch of the ProCuba website and the presentation of the 2017-2019 Cuba Business Directory.
The unveiling of the Russian stand was attended by Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca; Georgy Kalamanov, Russian deputy minister of Industry and Trade; and Mikhail Kamynin, ambassador of the sister nation on the island.
Kamynin highlighted the political support from both countries to carry out projects in sectors such as energy, telecommunications, health, and transport, especially rail; and also for those to come in the agricultural sector, maritime transport, and civil aviation.
On the Cuban side, Malmierca stressed that the country is confident that the ties between the two nations will be strengthened going forward. He emphasized that the island faces a difficult moment due to the recent damage caused by Hurricane Irma, but that it has received international support from, among others, the Russian government. He also noted that the results of the recent session of the Cuba-Russia Intergovernmental Commission were satisfactory, and in turn allowed for the deepening of ties of friendship.
Under the slogan “CubaIndustria 2018 on the path to sustainable and viable industrial development,” the third edition of the International Convention and Exhibition of the Cuban Industry (CubaIndustria) was announced, to take place June 18-23, 2018. The event presentation was attended by José Gaspar Álvarez Sandoval, vice minister of Industries, other ministry officials and diplomatic representatives of countries with commercial and cooperation interests.
This will be a propitious opportunity for scientific exchange; the strengthening of technological associations between national and foreign industries; the creation of exportable goods lines; and the consolidation of national production.
Cuban businesspeople and researchers linked to the industrial sector, and those from other countries, were invited to participate in CubaIndustria 2018, to present their professional contributions and commercial samples. These efforts will contribute to greater integration and cooperation among all industry stakeholders.
FIHAV also saw discussions on the strategic development of Cuban industry, which will allow for the consolidation of this sector’s participation in the country’s most significant projects, according to the plan designed through the year 2030.
“This is the most important specialized event in Cuban industry, that permits exchanges on sector modernization projects, and undoubtedly contributes to the consolidation of technological alliances and business projections, with which productive chains will materialize that will allow us to offer competitive products and services, contributing to import substitution and generating new sources of exports,” stated Álvarez Sandoval regarding the upcoming event.
It is important to highlight that Cubaindustria 2018, like previous editions, will cover the continuity of events related to recycling, packaging, and machine tools, as well as technological management and organizational innovation, quality management and environmental protection, congresses on the chemical industry, electronics and automation, the fashion industry, furniture, interior design, among others.
Meanwhile, Yamilé Herrera Fuentes, senior specialist in Business Management of the Grupo de la Electrónica (Electronics Group), explained that the company will be participating in Cubaindustria 2018, as the event will contribute to the development and incorporation of the achievements and innovations based on the eight development lines that the group is currently pursuing.
“We are very focused on the policy that the country is working on today in terms of its development strategy. Foreign companies join us as technological allies,” Herrera added.
Among the main markets with which the Electronics Group hopes to be associated are the Chinese, Russian, and European.
“We are at FIHAV with the objective of improving external financing, foreign investment, and to develop our entire industrial system based on the workforce that we have here today, which is very valuable and permits the development of our country,” the specialist concluded.
CUBA AND THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET
Cuba currently faces financial constraints, mainly caused by the declining prices of its exportable goods in the international market; difficulties experienced by some of its main trading partners; and the tightening of the U.S. economic, commercial, and financial blockade.
Added to this are the impacts of phenomena such as the drought, and the recent Hurricane Irma, which have led to multi-million dollar losses.
In this context, Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz stressed that despite this situation, Cuba has continued to comply with its commitments resulting from the restructuring of its external debt, agreed with its main creditors, and reiterated the government’s determination to continue honoring these obligations.
However, he explained that due to the temporary restrictions in hard currency liquidity, Cuban enterprises have been unable to keep up-to-date with current payments to their suppliers. Malmierca thanked those present for the confidence placed in the Cuban market, and reiterated the intention to resolve this situation as soon as possible, for which multiple efforts are ongoing.
He highlighted the country’s commitment in recent years to the development of prioritized investments, and the significant work done to achieve superior results in priority sectors and infrastructure, in order to stimulate the growth of exports and services.
“These efforts are redoubled, to advance in the updating of the economic, political, and social model in accordance with the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines for the 2016-2021 period, the Conceptualization of the Cuban Model, and the bases of the Social and Economic Development Plan through 2030,” Malmierca noted.
As such, he added that he was very satisfied with the participation of Latin America and the Caribbean in this year’s Fair, reflecting the goal of increasing regional economic ties and strengthening integration.
SECOND INVESTMENT FORUM AND PORTFOLIO OF OPPORTUNITIES
Foreign investment is a source of economic development and an essential part of the strategy currently undertaken by Cuba. Today, unlike in previous years, it ceases to be a complement, and has become an essential part of the Cuban economy.
The 2017-2018 Portfolio of Foreign Investment Opportunities was presented on the second day of FIHAV. Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz, began the presentation by explaining to participants the advantages of investing in a country like Cuba.
He noted the importance of having a well-defined general and sectoral policy, as well as a safe and transparent body of law, that fosters a stable climate for foreign personnel. He also highlighted the relevance of Cuba’s strategic position, a government policy that prioritizes innovation and research, and the maintenance of basic infrastructure that allows any investor to develop in the Cuban market.
This edition of the portfolio, which the minister assured is more comprehensive than the previous, will increase the diversity of the market in line with general and sectoral policies, design opportunities that generate productive chains, and provide greater knowledge about the businesses that the island intends to attract.
A total of 156 projects, representing investment of three billion dollars, have been added to the Portfolio, 29 of which are located in the Mariel Special Development Zone. The investment required for 22 projects has been adjusted, and others have been removed as they have already materialized, or are in the advanced stages of negotiations. According to feasibility studies, insurance projects are incorporated in the financial sector, the sectoral policy is updated, and the policy for the water sector is broadened, in response to the country’s drought situation.
“In total, this portfolio has 456 projects for a capital amount of 10.7 billion dollars. The projects are distributed throughout the country and reflect the bases of the National Development Plan through 2030,” noted Malmierca.
He added that although limitations persist that negatively affect these objectives, such as those resulting from the blockade, the country's dual currency, and liquidity restrictions, there continue to be others that also depend on Cuba, and slow progress. Among the most visible, he mentioned the delays in the preparation of studies, in compliance with procedures, and a lack of training in Cuban entities.
However, he noted that despite the difficulties, progress has been made. Since the passing of the Foreign Investment Law in 2014, 22 reinvestments, 25 new businesses in the Mariel Special Development Zone, and 85 more outside it, have been approved, with companies from more than 20 countries.
“Right now, there are 80 projects in the negotiation phase with real possibilities of materializing, of them, 15 are in a very advanced stage of negotiation and could be approved before the end of the year, for an investment amount of over one billion dollars,” Malmierca reported.
The Second Investment Forum was also inaugurated on the second day of FIHAV, with the presence of more than 180 participants from 33 countries. The space helped to bring together foreign investors and their Cuban counterparts, in order to facilitate and expedite negotiation processes.
RENEWED OPPORTUNITIES AT FIHAV
The 35th edition of the Havana International Fair coincided with the vote in the UN General Assembly on the Resolution presented by Cuba entitled “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial, and financial blockade imposed by the United States of America against Cuba.” As every year, the report on the resolution released prior to the vote was endorsed by the majority of countries.
In the context of the Fair, and regarding announcements made by the President of the United States on June 16, Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz stated: “The decisions of the President of the United States of America ignore the interests of broad sectors of that nation, especially of the U.S. business community that, in spite of the obstacles imposed by their government, is still interested in developing business with Cuba.”
An example of this was the contract signed between U.S. company COABANA TRADING and Cuban entity Cubaexport for the sale of vegetable charcoal to the U.S.
The agreement was signed November 1, by COABANA TRADING President Craig Litherlan, and Isabel O' Reilly, director general of the Cuban enterprise, who noted that this is the second such contract between the two parties, and demonstrates the success of the product.
She noted that this second 40 ton shipment, which follows on from the first made at the beginning of this year, is set to be exported in early December.
Meanwhile, Litherlan expressed his hope that trade relations continue to grow and expand to include other products, such as coffee and honey, which Cubaexport is fully capable of supplying; according to representatives from the organization.
In this sense, Malmierca Díaz also insisted that the Havana International Fair is an example of how despite the efforts of the U.S. government to tighten the blockade and seek to isolate Cuba, the country continues to arouse growing interest as a destination for foreign investment.
Cuba is currently trying to attract capital, and although aware that this is a gradual process, it is clear that there are signs of modest progress. The government continues to promote compliance with its foreign investment policy by including measures that will facilitate the development of businesses based in the country, and the training of workers in the business sector is ongoing, the minister added.
“Cuba will continue to insist on the importance of increasing the agility and proactivity of Cuban enterprises, to successfully conclude negotiations. Today, new business opportunities are being studied in accordance with the country’s priorities.
“The intention is to diversify the links with potential foreign partners and not depend on a single market. We are open to interested investors and companies, to support them in their efforts,” Malmierca insisted.
Over more than three decades, the Havana International Fair has established itself as a productive space for exchanges, business opportunities, commercial ties and the exploration of new markets. This edition was no exception and also confirmed the growth and value of an event of this magnitude for the Cuban economy, especially in the face of the changes taking place in the country.
The Fair helped to promote the outlined objectives in terms of external economic policy, to diversify foreign ties and expand the path forward for Cuban business.