We are developing contacts and relationships with Cuba
ē States British Ambassador Paul Hare
How do you evaluate British companiesí participation in the
Havana Trade Fair (FIHAV)?
We are delighted that a large number of British
companies will again participate in FIHAV this year,
continuing the trend of improving British attendance
over the last three years. In a year in which
attendance at FIHAV has regrettably, but
understandably been affected following the tragic
events in the United States of America on 11
September, this further confirms that the United
Kingdom is still open for "business as usual."
Indeed, so far, none of the British exhibitors has decided to withdraw
from the exhibition. Many of them have visited before, which is a
testament to their commitment to doing business in Cuba and
augurs well for the future. But there are also newcomers who are
learning for themselves what business opportunities await them in
Cuba. As usual, the companies represent a number of different
sectors, including, shipping, oil and gas, biotechnology, agriculture,
commodities, engineering. I am also very happy to report that there
will again be a strong representation from Scotland. Glasgow,
Scotlandís largest city has established particularly close links with
Cuba and I am delighted that the Lord Provost (mayor) of Glasgow
will also be visiting Havana again. This will be his first time at FIHAV
itself. As if to illustrate the strong affinity between the people of
Glasgow and Havana, and the considerable empathy between Scots
and Cubans in general, the City of Glasgow is to hold her second
major festival of Cuban culture next month. The festival is set to last
a full week.
Does the participation of British commercial entities correspond
with the current situation and prospects for the development
of commercial links between Cuba and the United Kingdom?
Yes, because there is such a broad spectrum of sectors represented.
This reflects a key feature of the Cuban economy, in that compared
to many countries in the region, it offers a great deal of diverse
opportunities. There are many existing investments by UK companies
in Cuba in such sectors as detergents and toiletries, tobacco, financial
services (including credit and insurance), high quality lubricants, gas
and port installations. We see good reason to be optimistic and are
confident that more will come in like oil, mineral extraction, transport,
infrastructure and tourism. We are also proud that there is so much
in the way of co-operation and exchanges in the specialized fields of
information and communication technology. Scottish companies are
particularly well placed to participate in the growth of oil and gas in
Cuba with our deep water experience in the North Sea. The UK and
Cuba also share developed biotechnology sectors and a love of
sports. So there is much more we can do together, and there are
many ways in which we can develop and strengthen our links.
In your opinion, which sectors have the best prospects for
trade development between the two countries? How is this
reflected in the activities of British companies at FIHAV?
While the situation has improved considerably in recent years, I think
there is still a great deal of ignorance in Britain about the Cuban
market, which in many ways is unique. I believe therefore that,
initially, the British interest should be in learning more how the Cuban
economy operates. That means finding the right partners and
developing the right sort of presence here. Thereís no substitute for
visiting a country and making direct contacts, and thatís why the
participants in FIHAV have made exactly the right move by coming
here. The organization of FIHAV every year shows the commitment
of the Cuban authorities to promoting international links. But, of
course, the Cuban official and commercial organizations recognise
that FIHAV, while a major event, is not all there is to business activity
in Cuba. For companies new to the Cuban market, it can act as a
shop window and a springboard into a new enterprise. For
companies established in the Cuban market, it is a great opportunity
to demonstrate their commitment to the Cuban market, and an
opportunity to catch up on new developments and, perhaps, new
potential partners or opportunities. But the importance of sustained
involvement and commitment cannot be overemphasised. British
companies active here recognise the need to keep returning, the
need to develop and maintain their contacts and relationships here.
New companies need to have a clear idea of business opportunities
here, while making potential Cuban partners and clients aware of
what they have to offer.
Spreading the word about new business opportunities in Cuba
I have taken this message to many of my Cuban colleagues, and I
am heartened by the enthusiasm with which they have greeted my
message. All have proved willing to help us spread the word about
new business opportunities in Cuba. All recognise the importance of
clear information about opportunities in the Cuban market. In the
past, too many British business decisions about Cuba have been
shaped by impressions because of the lack of hard information.
Often, this has led companies to decide against coming to Cuba, and
to concentrate on markets they know, rather than take a gamble.
But happily, that is changing and with the co-operation of our many
Cuban friends, the British Embassy plans to launch a regular
newsletter to further improve the information flow from Cuba, to
Optimism about London conference
We also have high hopes that there will be mutual benefit from the
Conference, "Investing in Cuba" which will take place in London next
month. Many international companies will attend. Members of the
Cuban Government and investment analysts will discuss the wide
variety of current opportunities that exist for UK investors in Cuba.