Cuba says foreign trade down 36 percent in 2009
Mon Nov 2, 2009 8:42pm EST
HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba opened its annual international trade fair on
Monday with the news its foreign trade was down 36 percent this year as
the communist-ruled island battles the effects of the global economic
Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca told
diplomats and business people at the ExpoCuba exhibition center in
suburban Havana that most of the decline was due to decreased imports,
reflecting Cuba's attempts to tighten its financial belt.
"Statistics show that at the close of the third quarter of 2009, the
trade of goods was down 36 percent in relation to the same period the
year before," he said.
Total trade for the first nine months was "around $10 billion,"
Cuba's economy has been battered by the global recession, damaging
hurricanes in late 2008 and productivity problems that President Raul
Castro is trying to fix by cutting government handouts and giving
financial incentives for harder work.
Cuba's trade deficit soared to $11.4 billion in 2008 as rising import
costs and lower prices for Cuban exports depleted cash reserves.
In response, Cuba took several measures, including stopping payments to
many foreign suppliers. Malmierca said Cuba planned to pay up eventually.
"I can assure you that we have the greatest willingness for dialogue
with our economic partners and that Cuba will continue to be a reliable
partner," he said.
The Cuban government said 54 countries were participating in the fair,
with large, prominent pavilions filled by allies such as Venezuela,
China and Brazil.
Far in the back of the sprawling exposition center were booths for about
35 U.S. businesses and organizations that included delegations from
states including Alabama, Georgia, Virginia and Maryland.
The Americans said they looked forward to the day the United States and
Cuba, just 90 miles apart but ideological foes since Cuba's 1959
revolution, resume normal trading relations.
The United States has had a trade embargo against Cuba for 47 years, but
sales of agricultural products and medicine are allowed.
"This is not just about business," said Paul Johnson, president of
Chicago Foods International. "I want to help bridge the gap between the
United States and Cuba."
"People who want to normalize trade feel like our embargo is
hypocritical," said Terry Coleman, Georgia's deputy agricultural
(Reporting by Jeff Franks and Esteban Israel; Editing by Peter Cooney)
Cuba says foreign trade down 36 percent in 2009 | Reuters (2 November 2009)