HAVANA, Feb. 3th (REUTERS) Cuba sought to drum up foreign investment on Tuesday as ministers on a state visit to Paris promised French business leaders that the Communist-run country is open for business.
Cuba saw growth reach 4 percent last year as the centrally-planned economy gradually opens up and the country re-builds ties with the West.
In the latest example of that re-engagement, the ministers were accompanying Cuban President Raul Castro on the first state visit of a Cuban leader to France since the country’s independence.
Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz, Cuba’s vice president of the council of ministers, told a French-Cuban business forum that a December debt relief deal with Cuba’s Paris Club leaders had lifted a major burden off the cash-starved country’s back, clearing the way for further investment.
“The government can help put in place a favourable business climate and that is what we are doing,” Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz said.
He added that there was also no taboo in doing business with U.S.-based companies, though the government did not want to become dependent on firms from its vastly bigger northern neighbour either.
“We won’t keep out American business people, they are welcome, but we want to keep our relations diverse,” the minister said, adding: “We don’t want to be tributary to anyone.”
Cuba is hoping to attract flows of foreign investment with a new port 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Havana that it is promoting as a potential regional trade and business hub, offering 10-year tax holidays to foreign businesses that set up there.
French construction group Bouygues is building infrastructure at the port while French shipping firm CMA-CGA [CMACG.UL] is setting up a logistics centre there.