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T&T and Cuba have had diplomatic relations for the last 45 years but in just last ten years, business ties have strengthened as Cuba has opened it economy to foreign investment and businesses. T&T’s trade facilitation office in Cuba has been useful in promoting business activities between the two countries.
This is a key area of focus, according to Rogelio Sierra Díaz, Cuban Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister, who recently paid a one-day working visit to T&T and met with government officials, including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“These are two very important areas between our countries,” he said.
Díaz described his visit and work schedule as intense. It began on June 5 and ends on Saturday, with stops in Suriname, Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica. The goal is to reaffirm historic bilateral relations with the region, discuss matters of mutual interest, and confirm Cuba’s willingness to continue co-operation .
“Cuba has a new president, so it is important to visit our historical friends and brothers in the Caribbean. T&T has a special place for Cuba as it was one of the countries under the then Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams to establish relations with Cuba,” he said.
Commenting on Cuba President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s vision for relations with T&T, Díaz said: “One of the characteristics of the new Cuban Government is continuity of foreign policy.
The new Cuban President will work on strengthening bonds with Caribbean nations.
“In this context, our relations with T&T are strong. We have intense co-operation which is beneficial not only to our governments but also to our peoples.”
According to Díaz, T&T is Cuba’s biggest trading partner in the English-speaking Caribbean.
“We have strong economic and trade bonds. Around 80 per cent of Cuba’s trade with the Caribbean is with T&T.”
Noting that many T&T companies have already invested in Cuba, he invited more T&T companies to benefit from opportunities there.
“There is the Mariel Special Investment Zone, which as its name indicates is a special zone a 45 km from the Cuban capital, Havana, where preferential conditions are given to foreign investment which provides many advantages for foreign investors,” he said.
“We are hoping that soon projects will be implemented and T&T companies will be established at this special economic zone.”
The Mariel Special investment Zone is located in Artemisa province, is a 465.4 square km zone with seaports, industrial parks, urban areas and tourism facilities.
Díaz said recently established flights between T&T and Cuba have been a boost for business and tourism.
“This brings our relationship closer and now we are only separated by three hours of flight. This will certainly allow the exchange between our peoples, among our business persons and also the idiosyncrasies and cultural knowledge,” he said.
“We are open to receive more T&T business persons who are interested in investing in Cuba. The foreign investment policies and laws that are now enforced in Cuba are very convenient and attractive for foreign investors. I can assure you that Caribbean and T&T business persons will be exceptionally welcomed by Cubans companies doing business with foreign capital.”
Díaz said every effort will be made to ensure that Galleons Passage, which is currently in Cuba undergoing retrofitting works at a shipyard in Santiago de Cuba, is delivered to T&T as soon as possible.
“We hope that it will be completed in the planned time so that it can provide its services in T&T,” he said.
Díaz admitted that current US President Donald Trump determination to maintain a stronger stance in the trade embargo against Cuba is a setback.
“It creates obstacles for the development of Cuba and also affects the day-to-day life of Cubans,” he said, adding that there are consequences for countries like T&T, with possible third-party implications for conducting trade with Cuba.
However, Díaz noted, T&T governments over the years have consistently voted at the United Nations against the trade embargo,
He concluded by saying that Cuba will maintain diplomatic and business ties with T&T and is confident they will grow in the future.
“I assure you that Cuba will remain firm in defending the interest of the Caribbean community,” he said.
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