havana-live-laurent-fabiusHAVANA 10th April (CUBA STANDARD)  French Foreign Minster Laurent Fabius will arrive in Cuba this Saturday, becoming the highest-ranking French visitor to the island in three decades. Fabius’ visit comes as Cuba and the European Union have agreed to begin talks about fully normalizing their relations, and as Cuba is seeking to attract foreign investment.
Fabius will witness the opening of an office of Ubifrance, the French trade facilitation agency, in Havana. A foreign affairs spokeswoman in Paris said the visit will allow companies from both countries to connect, allowing French companies to develop projects or open shop in Cuba. According to the French foreign ministry, Fabius will meet with his Cuban peer Bruno Rodríguez, to “analyze bilateral perspectives” as well as other international affairs.
After a decade-long lull, French investments in Cuba are reviving. In 2012, following a visit by Foreign Trade Secretary Pierre Lellouche, executives of 17 French corporations spent three days in Havana, to listen to Cuban investment proposals. The delegation, according to the Mouvement des Entreprises de France (Medef), included companies in telecommunications, energy, rail transport, logistics, agribusiness, enterprise services, infrastructure engineering and construction, oil equipment, industrial engineering, insurance and finance, hotels and tourism, electric installations, water and environment, and air catering.
In October 2013, Groupe Belvédère agreed to distribute a Cuban-made rum, and in February, a French startup company agreed to test and distribute a Cuban-made hepatitis vaccine.
Politics aside, the main stumbling block for French trade and investments is French government agency Coface, which has not provided credit guarantees related to Cuba since 2006, following a default. Also, three of France’s largest banks have been under pressure from the United States. According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. government is investigating BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole over transactions with Iran and Cuba.