Trade relations with the United Kingdom advance
News from Cuba | Friday, 8 May 2015
“We understand the importance of foreign investment for the Cuban economy, thus I consider that there is much more to be done,” expressed Lord Hutton of Furness. Photo: Cubadebate
The Chairman of the Cuba Initiative, Lord Hutton of Furness, informed that Cuba and the United Kingdom signed investment deals worth approximately 400 million dollars, relating to agriculture, energy and infrastructure for tourism, among other sectors.
At a press conference, the British businessman described his four-day visit to the Caribbean nation, heading a delegation representing more than 30 companies, as successful. This was the largest UK trade mission the island has seen in the recent years.
The executives from 32 UK companiesalso participated in a forum with their Cuban counterparts, met with ministers of various sectors and toured the Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM), where they reaffirmed their interest in investing in the island.
“We’ve come at an opportune time and we’ve made some progress and I hope we can repeat this in the future,” Lord Hutton said.
As part of a business seminar with the presence of Rodrigo Malmierca, minister of Foreign Trade and Investment; Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce; Timothy Cole, UK ambassador in Cuba, and Brian Wilson, a UK Trade and Investment Business ambassador, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Cuba (CCC) and the London Chamber of Commerce, as a step toward monitoring and improving bilateral ties.
The President of the CCC, Orlando Hernández Guillén, noted that nine British subsidiaries operate on the island, and as for tourists to Cuba, Britain ranks third worldwide and second in Europe. ”We hope to move to bring our economies closer together, we have to exploit the possibilities that exist to achieve significant increases in trade, which will provide mutual benefits,” he added.
Pedro Luis Padrón, director of Trade Policy with Europe of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, said that since its establishment, the Cuba Initiative, which is 20 years old, has served as a space for dialogue and promotion of business between the island and the United Kingdom.
However, he noted that at the end of 2014, bilateral trade fell by 40% in comparison to the previous year. Cuban exports decreased 66%, although sales of bottled rum, cigars, honey in bulk, forest products and cocoa butter were maintained.
Imports also declined, although to a lesser extent. Among the main products purchased are milk powder, medicines, tires, chemicals and beverages. In the context of the European Union, the United Kingdom ranks ninth in terms of trade with the island.
Luis Padrón stressed that relations with the United Kingdom are very important to Cuba, not only for trade but also for business, given the high level of development and the seriousness with which the country’s companies work.
The Cuban official recognized the role of the UK Trade & Investment Cuba office and the British Embassy as promoters of several missions that have been conducted, as well as the government of the European country for its support for the Cuba Initiative.
Created in April 1995, the Cuba Initiative consists of 50 companies and undertakes, among other services, the organization of trade missions and meetings with Cuban ministers and senior officials and provides access to networks of experts and potential business partners on the island.