Europeans rush to seek Cuba deals in light of U.S.-Cuba thaw
By Marc Frank
HAVANA, July 9 (Reuters) – European officials and businesses are
visiting Cuba in unprecedented numbers, attracted by its market-oriented
reforms and hastened to act by Havana’s improved relations with the
Seventy-five companies accompanied Spain’s Minister of Industry, Energy
and Tourism Jose Manuel Soria during his visit this week, and 140
Italian firms also visited with Italy’s deputy minister for economic
development, Carlo Calenda.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was also scheduled to
lead a delegation of 100 businesses to Cuba, but that trip was postponed
due to ongoing talks with Iran and the crisis in Greece.
Similar delegations from France, Britain and the Netherlands have
arrived in recent weeks.
“No one wants to miss the train,” said Herman Portocarero, the European
Union’s ambassador to Cuba.
Since U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro announced
last December they would restore diplomatic ties, scores of U.S.
businesses have come calling, including conglomerates such as Johnson &
Johnson, Dow Chemical , Microsoft, Google, Dell and U.S. airlines.
They remain largely shut out by a U.S. economic embargo, which Obama is
asking Congress to lift, so the Europeans are attempting to seize the
moment while they still have an advantage.
“The crowning glory was when President Raul Castro visited Rome (in
May). He told us to hurry up and come with our companies, and we did so
quickly,” Mario Giro, Italy’s under-secretary for foreign affairs, told
reporters in Havana late on Wednesday.
Italian companies have 14 projects planned for Cuba’s Chinese-style
special development zone around the newly built container port at
Mariel, he said.
Spain is Cuba’s third economic partner after Venezuela and China and its
hospitality companies led by Sol Melia manage dozens of hotels on the
“For the government of Spain and the majority of Spanish companies, a
new moment full of opportunity has begun,” Soria, the Spanish industry,
energy and tourism minister, said.
The Mariel economic zone was especially attractive for investors, as it
allows wholly owned foreign companies to repatriate profits under a
favorable tax regime, he added.
(Reporting by Marc Frank and Jaime Hamre; Editing by Daniel Trotta and
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