Businesses from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Saint Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and Grenada are participating in Cuba’s largest annual multi-sector trade fair, the 34th Havana International Trade Fair, FIHAV 2016, running from October 31 to November 4.
Director General of the OECS, Dr. Didacus Jules, said FIHAV was the principal venue in which OECS businesses could gain exposure to not only the growing domestic Cuban market but commercial linkages to more than seventy-five countries who were also participating in the global trade fair.
“Through OECS Member State Ambassadors to Cuba working in collaboration with the Competitive Business and Trade Policy Unit of the OECS Commission and with support from the European Union, we have been able to facilitate the participation and promotion of OECS businesses to the world.
“The OECS has historically enjoyed strong relations with Cuba across a number of functional areas of cooperation, including health and education, and now with the Cuban government’s desire to diversify international economic relations, we are positioning to ensure OECS businesses are supported to successfully enter the Cuban market.
“We recognize that the non-State sector in Cuba is growing, as evidenced, for example, by plans to add before 2016, 3000 new hotel rooms to the flourishing tourism sector and the establishment of the ambitious Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM) intended to attract foreign direct investment.
“This growth will invariably drive increasing demand for products and services across a range of sectors, including, for example, high-end building products such as paint, blinds and awnings to manufactured food items, for which the OECS is uniquely placed both competitively and geographically to service.
“We are confident with the passage of time and with the appropriate levels of support, OECS businesses can also replicate the success of Baron Foods Ltd. who will not only export to Cuba but will also be manufacturing there too,” said Dr. Jules.
“Saint Lucia’s Ambassador to Cuba, Dr. Charles Isaac, said Cuba in collaboration with OECS Heads of Mission had collaborated to facilitate the consolidation of the traditional relationship existent from one that has been traditionally based on political solidarity to the emergence of one based on trade.
“In this regard we have had a Caribbean Business Forum organized by the Cuban government in 2015 attended by a number of businesses entities within the region, including the OECS.
“Subsequent to this, we had the participation of most of those entities in FIHAV 2015 and now 2016 supplemented by a continual dialogue and engagement between business entities of the OECS and their Cuban counterparts.
“Baron Foods as an example have just signed a contract for the first container shipment of condiments and sauces to Cuba.
“We have continued to engage the process for other companies who are at various stages of market access negotiations and expect in the not too distant future, a number of other companies will have access to the Cuban market.
“Cuban authorities have consistently emphasized their willingness to accommodate Caribbean business entities given the traditional good relations that have been maintained and supported over the years.
“This is important as we are now provided a window of opportunity by the Cuban authorities to enter the Cuban market,” said Dr. Isaac.