'Let India be our largest trade partner'
24 May, 2008, 0000 hrs IST,Amiti Sen, TNN
Finding its feet back after two decades of struggle following economic
sanctions by the US in the '90s, Cuba seems eager to re-establish strong
economic ties with India. A nineteen-member business delegation is in
India after a gap of 22 years scouting for trade opportunities. Cuban
deputy minister of foreign trade and head of the delegation Eduardo
Escandell Amador shares with ET the prospects of growth in trade and
investment between the two countries.
For more than two decades no official trade delegation from Cuba visited
India. Now you are here with a big delegation of business
representatives from various sectors. What spurred your interest in the
There is more than one reason for our interest in India. We have had
strong business relations with India till the eighties. However, in the
nineties, after the fall of the Soviet Union, our economy went through a
crisis. The US waged an economic war against us. Not only did they block
trade with our country, no international company was allowed to do
business with us. We had to fight to recover our economy and hence our
attention was focussed inwards. But now we have started the process of
increasing our trade all over the world. Since India is a large and fast
growing economy and we have been historically doing trade with the
country, we are now interested in focussing on intensifying trade ties.
India recently waived Cuba's outstanding debt. How significant do you
think was the move?
My country greatly appreciates this gesture made by the Indian
government and I feel this is the second reason why India-Cuba trade is
set to go up. Now that our old debts have been waived, we are in a
position to establish new credit lines. This will enable fresh trade to
take place between the two.
What are the areas of cooperation you envisage between the two countries?
Indian investment already exists in areas such as food, health and
energy. As Indian exports to Cuba are low at present, there is immense
opportunity to increase exports in the existing areas. We are also
interested in the Indian transport sector and want to import more buses
Cuba is looking at increasing exports of bio-technology products and
health services. Since we have a lot of experience in providing high
quality public health service, that is an area where we can assist
India. We also want to export more Cuban cigars and rum to your country.
The areas which hold a lot of potential for Indian investments include
oil and gas, tourism, and mining.
What kind of response have you received from the Indian side?
We have had meetings with both government officials and business people
which have so far been very fruitful. Our delegates have had dialogues
with their counterparts in their respective sectors. We are scheduled to
meet Tata officials in Mumbai next week and discuss the possibility to
source buses and their small car Nano. Nothing has been finalised yet.
We are still in the discussion stage.
What kind of follow-up meetings have you planned? How will you help in
bridging the information gap between the business communities of the two
Business delegations from different sectors in Cuba are expected to
visit India in the near future. There will be a big industrial fair in
November in Cuba where a large number of countries will participate. We
expect India's presence at the fair to be large.
To help disseminate information to the business community of other
countries about the investment climate and procedure in our country, we
have put all relevant information on our web-sites. Our embassy
officials in India have also been asked to forward all possible help.
How do you see the future of India-Cuba economic relations shaping up?
We have a very promising future ahead. We already have excellent
bilateral political relationship. While the level of trade was allowed
to slacken in the past, it will indeed go up in the future. There is a
lot that we can offer each other and we have got to build on that.
We want India to be one of our largest trading partners in Asia and
subsequently in the world. This will, of course, take time. But we have
taken the first step towards achieving our goal of increasing economic
relations several fold.