Havana trade fair enthusiasm fails to secure concrete deals

havana-trade-fair-enthusiasm-fails-to-secure-concrete-deals-2-800x450HAVANA, Nov. 5, Cuba’s annual international trade fair is taking place in Havana this week with a record 35,000 exhibitors from more than 70 countries, including the United Sates.

Trade interest is up but that isn’t translating into solid investment deals.

Attendance this year’s Havana Trade Fair shows that there is more interest than ever from foreign companies looking to do business with Cuba, following detente with the United States.

So far though, this has not resulted in a rush of large scale investment projects. When Cuba passed its new foreign investment law in 2014 it said it needed to attract at least $2 billion a year to revive its struggling economy.

But foreign trade minister, Rodrigo Malmierca, speaking at the fair said that since than Cuba had attracted some $1.3 billion in investment projects since 2014 roughly a third of what it had targeted.

European companies are leading the investment drive but coming up against both internal and external restraints.

The U.S. Pavillion is much smaller than most of the other countries but many of the American firms here are exhibiting for the first time.

Some like the airline JetBlue are already doing business here, while others are looking for opportunities further down the road.

The United States is the nearest market to Cuba. But U.S. firms will still face stiff competition from Cuba’s traditional political allies, even when the trade embargo is finally lifted.