Granma International
October 26, 2001

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
                   British companies.

                   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.