Havana trade fair hopes to attract more foreign investment to Cuba

Cuba

Cuba Wooing Foreign InvestmentIn this Nov. 6, 2013 file photo, small fishing boats float anchored on the opposite shore of a port under construction in the Bay of Mariel, Cuba. The island nation has yet to announce any foreign investment projects for the Mariel trade zone after the port opened with $600 million from Brazil, two-thirds of the project’s cost. (AP Photo/Franklin Reyes, File)

The Havana International Trade Fair opened this week and has attracted more than 2,000 exhibitors from more than 60 countries despite a continuing U.S. trade embargo. The Cuban government is using the fair to launch a major new drive attracting foreign investment. CCTV America’s Michael Voss reported this story from Havana.

Havana trade fair hopes to attract more foreign investment to Cuba

The Havana International Trade Fair opened this week and has attracted more than 2,000 exhibitors from more than 60 countries despite a continuing U.S. trade embargo. The Cuban government is using the fair to launch a major new drive attracting foreign investment. CCTV America's Michael Voss reported this story from Havana.

Cuba is looking for foreign companies to invest more than $8 billion to help modernize its struggling economy. At this week’s far, Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca made rounds outlining exactly what investments were needed to perspective clients.

Cuba has identified almost 250 specific projects across sectors, including agriculture, mining, tourism, and pharmaceuticals. However this does not signal that the island is preparing to embrace free market capitalism.

“While we understand the role that the market can play in the economic process, we reaffirm that our supreme objective is to build socialism based on central planning,” said Malmierca.

Cuba’s first steps towards economic reform have aroused considerable interest, however while the fair attracted a record number of exhibitors, investors remain cautious. So far no one has committed to any large-scale direct foreign investment.

Cuba is offering tax breaks and other concessions for companies to invest in a Special Development Zone under construction around the new container port at Mariel, west of Havana. These projects must be approved at the highest levels of government, which has been slow to respond.

“This bureaucracy continues, and contract signing is taking time,” said Omar Everleny, of the Center for Study of the Cuban Economy. “We need to learn from other countries. We can’t be like Singapore, where they can sign business deals in just three days, but we cannot look at our time as infinite.”

Cuba’s economy grew at just 2.7 percent in 2013 and even slower growth is predicted for this year.