During the inauguration of the 34th Havana International Trade Fair (Fihav 2016), Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca emphasized the need for Cuba to find more serious, capable and committed economic partners.
Such is the case with Spain, Russia, France, Italy, and Japan, who have expanded their participation in the most important trade fair in the Caribbean.
Spain returns as the best represented country at Fihav 2016, with more than 150 companies, 39 of which are participating for the first time, occupying five pavilions of the traditional venue ExpoCuba’s total of 25.
The Spanish ambassador in Cuba, Juan Francisco Montalbán, spoke of his country’s interest in becoming a fundamental trade partner for the island, which is Spain’s fourth largest market in Latin America, surpassed only by Mexico, Brazil and Chile.
The diplomat praised the development of Cuban tourism, which is no doubt the force driving other sectors of the economy, he noted, and also referred to recent visits to the island by Presidents of the Spanish autonomous regions of Valencia and Murcia, which have given a regional impulse to relations between the two nations.
Cuba’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, Ileana Núñez, explained that, at the close of 2015, Spain was once again the country’s third most important trade partner. The value of commercial exchange has surpassed one billion euros for the past four consecutive years, she reported.
The Spanish Institute of Foreign Trade’s advisory delegate, Francisco Javier Garzón, emphasized that, since 2011, a 50% increase in exports from Spain to Cuba has been seen, and the quality of products exhibited at Fihav has improved as well, he said, noting that a broad variety of economic sectors are participating in the fair this year, highlighting food processing, hotels, and logistic services.
Three new participants from Africa
Ethiopia, Gabon and Tanzania are making their debuts at Fihav 2016, and the official introduction of Ethiopia, a country undertaking an economic transformation as well, was scheduled on the first day of the event.
During the round of negotiations that were part of the country’s welcome, Antonio Luis Carricarte, first deputy minister at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment (Mincex), thanked Ethiopia for its presence, noting that it is a country that has collaborated with Cuba in the healthcare sector.
Carricarte emphasized that economic and trade relations between the two nations are insignificant in comparison to the historic ties of struggle that unite the African nation with Cuba.
Ethiopian ambassador in Cuba, Dawano Kedir Haji, called for studies of the potential for collaboration between the two nations and referred, for example, to the metallurgical industry which his country has developed.
Following the introductions, business people from Cuba and Ethiopia met to exchange information about the functioning of their respective societies and economies.
Cuba and Russia strengthen ties
Cuba and Russia reaffirmed their intention to continue strengthening economic and commercial ties during the October 31 inauguration of the pavilion hosting exhibits presented by businesses from the Eurasian country.
Attending this years’ fair are a dozen Russian companies and corporations interested in investing here, based on the possibilities now available as a consequence of the new Foreign Investment Law.
Georgi Kalamanov, deputy minister of Industry and Trade for the Russian Federation, spoke during the opening, saying he was very pleased to be attending one of the Caribbean and Latin America’s largest business events.
With Ricardo Cabrisas, a Council of Ministers vice president and minister of Economy and Planning; Orlando Hernández Guillén, president of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce; and Mijail Kamynin, Moscow’s ambassador in Havana, in attendance, Kalamanov emphasized that his country’s involvement in key sectors of the Cuban economy have contributed to modernization, noting Russia’s investment in the country’s railroads and the sugar industry.
He said that a number of Russian companies are looking to sign agreements during the fair.
Rodrigo Malmierca reported that Cuban and Russian business leaders will examine new investment opportunities during the fair, as well as sectors in which economic ties could be broadened.
He likewise indicated that, as a result of inter-governmental commission meetings held, Moscow has granted Cuba credit to finance the erection of four electrical generators, and for the expansion and modernization of the country’s José Martí Steel Works.
During the day, an agreement for the supply of equipment was signed by the Russian radio research institute, Vniira S.A and the Cuban state enterprise Aviaimport, for the purpose of improving airport services on the island. A Strategic cooperation agreement in the sugar industry was also signed by
the Azuimport and Ruselprom companies.
Yutiong betting on clean energy
The friendship shared by China and Cuba has been extended to their enterprises who see each other as reliable partners. The Yutong company is looking to be in the vanguard of clean energy in Cuba, and brought to the fair a model electric bus that produces zero greenhouse gases.
With more than 10 years experience in Cuba, the giant motor vehicle company has become part of the people’s everyday life. Since its arrival, close to 7,000 of its buses have transported millions of persons every day, thus contributing to the country’s socio-economic development.
In an effort to increase its presence and prestige in the national market, Yutong arrived at the fair with seven model buses, the most noteworthy being an electric-powered one, the first of its kind seen in Cuba. This novel vehicle has a capacity of 90 passengers, seated or standing, and can travel 250 to 300 km without recharging its batteries, at a speed of 69 km/h.
Yutong Vice President Hu Feng-ju stated that his company has studied the country’s specific conditions and is currently designing a bus for the Cuban market, adding that the company is in a position to supply all the vehicles of this type the country may need.
He said that Yutong is aware of efforts being made in Cuba to care for the environment, and was therefore inspired to launch the new electric bus here, where it takes on a special meaning.
For his part Enrique Martínez Hernández, director general of the Evelio Prieto bus production enterprise, located in Guanajay, told Granma that this model will be put to the test in Havana, to determine its benefits and possibilities.
He noted that Cuba is looking to use the bus differently than it is used in China, where batteries are recharged on the traditional electric grid, explaining, “We’re thinking about utilizing recharging techniques based on solar energy or other types of renewable resources that would truly allow us to save fuel.”
He indicated that during the last ten years, his company has worked on the assembly of 1,000 Yutong buses, and is looking to train personnel and prepare to jointly produce and develop vehicles of this type in the future, with partners like the Chinese company and others with novel technology.
Regarding the manufacturing of Diana buses, a task the Evelio Prieto company has undertaken, Martínez explained that 600 should be produced this year, the highest figure since 1991, in an effort to respond to the country’s transportation problem.
Japanese experience shared
More than 400 years after the first contact between Japan and Cuba, the Asian country is attending Fihav 2016 with its largest delegation ever, to promote economic relations.
According to the head of Japan’s foreign trade organization (Jetro), Hiroyuki Ishige, this is the first time the country’s businesses have filled an entire pavilion at the fair.
Now that Cuba has entered a new stage in its development, he said, Japan is hoping to play an important role in the growing economy, and as a reflection of this intention, Jetro and the Cuban Chamber of Commerce signed a memorandum of understanding.
Likewise, Mincex Deputy Minister Ileana Núñez Mordoche confirmed the interest of Japanese companies in such sectors as energy, tourism, construction, infrastructure, industry, and transport, adding, “Today, no obstacles exist to progress in our commercial and economic ties, thus our efforts should be directed toward taking advantage of the strengths and potential of each country, with the goal of taking these ties to a higher level.”
For his part, Japan’s ambassador to Cuba, Masaru Watanabe invited all present to the inauguration of the country’s pavilion to appreciate the experience and discipline of Japanese companies, and the high quality of their technology.
The diplomat emphasized that Cuba will find in Japan reliable partners to establish win-win relations, and noted the presence of prestigious companies like Hitachi High Tec, Sumitomo, Mitsubishi, Mitsui, Marubeni and Mayekawa.