HAVANA – Cuba defended on Monday at the opening of the 35th Havana International Fair (FIHAV 2017) its strengths as a focus for foreign investment against US attempts to isolate the island by means of a financial embargo and its freezing of bilateral relations in recent months.
Cuban Foreign Trade and Investment (Mincex) Minister Rodrigo Malmierca noted in a speech that this occasion, the largest annual trade fair and investment exchange on the island, “continues to be consolidated” and has become a “useful negotiating space for trade and investment deals.”
Malmierca said that “despite attempts by the US government to reinforce the embargo and its plans to isolate Cuba,” the island still interests investors in numerous countries, including the business community in its neighbor to the north.
The Caribbean country requires an annual injection of foreign capital of some $2.5 billion to grow its economy, but has not yet achieved that amount, authorities acknowledge.
The Mincex minister admitted that foreign investment “has shown a modest increase” in terms of new businesses nailed down and of reinvestments in existing enterprises.
Since FIHAV 2016, deals have been signed for total investment commitments of more than $2 billion in sectors like renewable energy, construction, tourism, mining, exploratory oil drilling and food production, to which are added several projects “at an advanced stage” that could be wrapped up before year’s end, Malmierca said.
Cuba will present Tuesday at the FIHAV its 2018 Investment Portfolio, which includes more than 400 projects and is focused on garnering capital in such sectors as industry, food and agriculture, tourism, mining, oil, renewable energy and biotechnology.
One of the chief complaints of investors is that despite the passing of a new Foreign Investment Law in 2014, the bureaucracy and its sluggishness in taking decisions discourage potential investors, a problem the Cuban government is well aware of.
Furthermore, as the minister acknowledged Monday, Cuba “faces temporary financial limitations” because of the US determination to maintain its embargo, the difficulties some of its trading partners are going through – mainly Venezuela – and the drop in prices of its exports on international markets.
FIHAV 2017 will host until Nov. 3 more than 3,000 business leaders from 63 countries at the ExpoCuba fairground, where 16 countries will have official pavilions, including Spain, France, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, China and Russia.