PHOTOS: OTMARO RODRIGUEZ
BY HAYDEE LEON MOYA — Granma International staff writer —
CONSUMER goods, machinery, equipment, technology, raw materials and various services representing 1,425 companies (428 Cuban and 997 foreign) are occupying the 25 pavilions of the Havana Trade Fair this week. The 25th edition of the annual event runs from November 5 to 10 at the Expocuba fairgrounds.
More than 1,400 companies at Havana Trade FairThis year, the exhibition area covers some 16,108 square meters; exhibitors have come from 53 countries; and 19 official delegations and representatives from 36 chambers of commerce are attending, welcomed at the opening ceremony by Vice President Carlos Lage Dávila and Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis Navarro, who led a sizeable and enthusiastic delegation from his country. It is the first time Panama has a whole pavilion at this event.
Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade Raúl de la Nuez Ramírez said that as of September of this year, Cuba’s trade for 2007 totaled 10 billion convertible pesos, 12% more than in the same period in 2006, with a 44% increase in exports and greater geographic balance in its transactions.
He noted that Cuba is developing fruitful commercial and financial relationships with more than 3,000 corporations from 176 nations, and that Venezuela, China, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Italy are being reinforced as its main trade partners, with whom Cuba does about 70% of its foreign transactions.
De la Nuez said that this trade fair has benefited the advance of Cuba’s foreign trade and the development of new investments and joint enterprises, not just with Cuba but also among other countries participating as exhibitors. The minister added that the fair’s results also show how the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba maintained by the United States for almost 50 years has not been able to isolate the country from the international community, despite having caused it losses of more than $89 billion.
SPAIN, THE BEST-REPRESENTED
Spain is the best-represented country at the fair, with a pavilion featuring 80 companies. Other countries with national pavilions include Germany, Brazil, Venezuela, Italy and Turkey.
For its part, Canada, present at this event since its first edition, has more than 60 companies represented, with a wide-ranging display of machinery, vehicles, cereals, steel products and others.
This country has an important market in Cuba for buying nickel and cobalt, tobacco, fish, rum, seafood, copper and other products, and is currently the largest issuing country for tourists to the island. It was precisely the latter sector that is weightiest in joint ventures. In 2006, for example, 600,000 Canadians visited the island.
MORE THAN 100 U.S. COMPANIES
The Havana Trade Fair is also being attended by 213 representatives of 100 U.S. companies, as well as four agriculture secretaries from different U.S. states. The U.S. group was led by Nebraska Governor Dave Heinemann.
STRONG PANAMANIAN PRESENCE LED BY FIRST VICE PRESIDENT
For the first time since the Havana Trade Fair first opened, the Panama Republic features a broad range of products and technology. The presence of the country’s first vide president and foreign minister, Samuel Lewis, representatives of autonomous and semi-autonomous businesses, such as the Panama Canal Authority, and an enthusiastic cultural delegation made the Panamanian pavilion stand out. Together with Spain, Panama was one of two countries present 25 years ago at the Havana Trade Fair’s first edition.
Those attending this year’s event consider the possibilities for Latin American integration offered by Panama’s administration of the Canal, particularly perspectives for increasingly broader exchange once the colossal investment has been made to expand that important inter-oceanic channel.
Panama Canal officials and managers commented to Granma International about the progress of the expansion underway at this time, which is expected to be completed in 2014 at a total cost of $5 billion, financed based on income from the channel’s commercial operations, which has been under Panamanian administration for the last seven years.
The investment consists of the construction of a third set of locks, including a third canal, and the deepening and widening of the channel, as well as raising the level of Lake Gatun so that larger ships can pass through.
Engineer Sixta Rodríguez, supervisor of logistic support for the Panamanian company, said that work is currently at the stage of dry excavation, which is being carried out by the Constructora Urbana S.A. Company, and with the participation of about 5,000 Panamanian workers.
Under Panamanian administration, the Canal has made significant direct contributions to the state, part of which are being allocated by the government, for the first time, for projects benefiting society. This spending includes the construction of the Centenario Bridge, the second-largest in the country, uniting the capital with the other provinces; highways, and investments in the education system and community projects, among others.
Another of this Pavilion’s attractions is the presence of a stand representing the Colón Free Trade Zone, the largest in the Americas and the second-largest in the world. It is a re-export zone, with a strategically privileged location in the region. It is a three-day journey from Cuba by ship, and two-and-a-half hours by plane.
Representatives from the Panamanian Ministry of Trade and Industry are also present, as well as from the Panamanian Tourism Institute, the Ministry of Agricultural Development and the Institute of Agricultural Marketing, all of them linked to the promotion of Panamanian exports.
Companies that sell Cuba textiles, foodstuffs, appliances, automotive supplies and items for the household and small businesses, among others, are all on exhibit. These companies included Cepormarín, a distributor of French autos; Calsa, which represents Toyota in Cuba; Inversión Pucara, which for the first time is representing the Nissan line of autos, and other export firms for clothing, all types of printed materials and food and drink.
The first vice president of that Republic emphasized that Panama has close ties with Cuba, and that their trade has had an important leap, because as of September, it totaled $48 million, compared to $14 million in 2006.
Proof of that position on the part of the Panamanian government for boosting bilateral trade relations is the setting up last year of a commercial office for the first time to specifically attend to interests in that sphere.