HAVANA – The prime minister of the Canadian province of Quebec, Philippe Couillard, began on Tuesday an official visit to Cuba to tighten economic links and strengthen cooperation in strategic sectors such as agriculture, energy, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.
The head of the French-speaking region arrived on the island with a delegation of representatives from 43 companies to seek business opportunities in Cuba, where Canadian firms already have an important presence in sectors like mining and oil exploration.
Leaders of those Canadian firms met on Tuesday with representatives of the Cuban business sector at a business forum at Havana’s Hotel Nacional, which was inaugurated by Couillard and Cuba’s foreign trade and investment minister, Rodrigo Malmierca.
At the opening of the event, Couillard emphasized that Cuba and Quebec are united by “numerous affinities and common values such as universal access to health care, accessible and quality education and the protection of cultural identity.”
He also said that they share a “social economy” model that promotes the formation of cooperatives, a business model that “in Quebec moves $40 billion in business volume, provides jobs for about 150,000 people and represents about 10 percent of the region’s Gross Domestic Product.”
Meanwhile, Malmierca emphasized the “potential and growth” of international trade between Cuba and Quebec, given that it is only 10 percent of the island’s total trade with Canada, which is Cuba’s fourth-largest trading partner with a volume of $793 million in 2015.
The Cuban official also pointed to the importance of tourism in the bilateral relationship, with Canada being the top sender of tourists to Cuba, with 1.3 million visitors last year, of which more than half came from Quebec.
Several cooperation agreements were signed between Cuba and Quebec within the framework of the visit.
Couillard is also scheduled to meet on Tuesday with Cuban Vice President and Economy Minister Ricardo Cabrisas and with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez.