HAVANA – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wrapped up Friday his two-day state visit to Cuba, during which he paved the way for Japanese companies to do business on the Caribbean island, where the thaw in relations with the United States has sparked renewed interest in the Oriental economic power.
Abe’s presence in Cuba is the first visit to the Caribbean country by a Japanese government, though historic relations between the two countries go back 400 years to when the samurai Hasekura Tsunenaga had a two-day stopover at Havana in 1614 on his way to Europe.
Very different from that adventurous voyage, Abe’s visit has been purely practical – he has sought to strengthen cooperation for development, establish educational ties and above all put Japanese companies to work in Cuba at a time when the island is bent on modernization.
“I want to cooperate with Cuba, joining forces as much in the public sector as in the private one,” Abe told a press conference Friday in Havana, adding that “Japanese companies can, as reliable partners, make a notable contribution to a Cuba that is updating its socio-economic model.”
“Cuba is an extremely attractive investment destination for Japan. As the U.S. has eased sanctions, Cuba has made efforts to improve its investment environment,” Abe said, adding that “I believe that this will prompt both trade and investment by Japanese firms.”
The Japanese prime minister went on to say that Cuba has a “huge demand” for infrastructure, transportation and energy, that the educational level is very high, and that the island has high quality human resources and safety for its citizens.
He said Cuba is therefore “an extremely attractive investment destination for Japan.”
Abe’s arrival in Cuba was preceded this week by his signing of a debt-forgiveness accord for Havana as part of a multilateral agreement reached between the Caribbean country and its creditor nations of the Paris Club.
That measure, according to Abe, creates a new scenario in bilateral economic relations.
He trusted that “trade and investments by Japanese firms” will also increase as the U.S. embargo is lifted further and as Cuba continues to make efforts to create a favorable economic climate.
Abe wanted his visit to stimulate and strengthen relations, and said that as Cuba’s socio-economic modernization continues and its relations with the U.S. improve, the whole world is watching with great interest.
During his visit, the prime minister met with the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, and with President Raul Castro, with whom he discussed strengthening cooperation for development and for different projects in the fields of food supply, infrastructure, education and sports.
During his official meeting with Raul Castro, Abe also asked for help in dealing with North Korea based on Cuba’s good relations with that country and its influence with nations of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).