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Posted November 07, 2007 by publisher in Cuba-World Trade

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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 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.


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.


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.

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  1. Follow up post #1 added on November 07, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    1400 companies from 53 countries and Cuba still can’t complains about the US Embargo. Geesh.

    If Castro really wanted Cuba to be successful, he could have done business with dozens of other countries and made the US and the Embargo irrelevant. Instead he complains and blames the US for Cuba’s failings.

    Sad really. All these years Fidel has been the jockey on a prize winning horse pulling on the reins holding back a prize winning horse.

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  2. Follow up post #2 added on November 07, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Then there is this fluff piece from the Associated Press.

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  3. Follow up post #3 added on November 07, 2007 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    I completely agree with you. The fact is that he had actually trade with other countries without any problem but he Embargo have facilitated him a nice handy tool to his propaganda machine.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on November 08, 2007 by MiamiCuban

    So for argument’s sake, let’s say that the EU, Russia, India, China and Canada united and decided to have an embargo against the U.S…...are you saying that our economy would be wholly UNAFFECTED because we’d be able to manage to find a few ways to get around the embargo and buy our goods from the Marshall Islands?  And what about the psychological effect on the people?

  5. Follow up post #5 added on November 08, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    We would have to do something pretty bad to have all those countries united against us. It would never happen.

    The US Embargo is by one country, not several so the argument doesn’t stand.

    So, we would be able to deal with other countries just like Cuba is able to deal with other countries like Russia, China, Venezuela, Spain etc etc. The problem is Fidel’s mindset of terrible business practices NOT the Embargo.

    The country is the way it is because of Fidel, not because of the Embargo.

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  6. Follow up post #6 added on November 08, 2007 by MiamiCuban

    Publisher, you missed my point.  It’s a hypothetical situation, true, but meant for purposes of comparison.  Remember we’re talking about the economic and military power of the strongest country on earth….vs. a small island.

    As for your comment that “the country is the way it is because of Fidel, not because of the Embargo”——-that’s a statement of opinion, not FACT.  As far as I know, there has been no study to determine what percentage of Cuba’s problems are the direct fault of policy, and which come under the direct influence of the embargo.

  7. Follow up post #7 added on November 08, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    If you want to be blind to Fidel’s history of bad credit and anti-business environment on the island, then there is nothing I can say to get you to give up your pro-Fidel position. And that’s what you are pro-Fidel and anti-US.

    Simple as that.

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  8. Follow up post #8 added on November 08, 2007 by MiamiCuban

    Things are simple in a “black and white” world, but that’s not the kind of world we live in.

    I was born in the U.S. and love my country as much as anyone else.  You don’t know me so you can’t possibly say I’m “anti-U.S.”  But I AM against many of this country’s unfair and senseless policies.  Of course, people who see the world in “black and white” couldn’t possibly understand that dichotomy.

  9. Follow up post #9 added on November 08, 2007 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    I can guarantee you that “the country is the way it is because of Fidel, not because of the Embargo” is a FACT.
    Don’t argue with me, go to Cuba and talk to professionals, University professors and the people on the street, not in front of the cameras but only you and them, you would get a real glance of the situation in Cuba.
    I don’t feel that the issue is if you are anti or in favor of Fidel Castro. I presume that is a matter that you either had never been there or have not been there for sufficiently long time as to learn the reality.
    Normally the Cuban issues are extremely polarizing and I can understand that easily because people became anti or in favor only based on the little information that is transpiring, even when that little information is mostly manipulated by the Cuban Government.

  10. Follow up post #10 added on November 09, 2007 by MiamiCuban

    Yeyo, I base my opinions on what Cubans, on the island, have said to me…..not in front of cameras.  And these opinions came from random people like taxi drivers or a street vendor selling coconut treats, as well as family and friends who had no reason to lie to me.  Obviously, those opinions do not reflect the sentiments of 100% of Cuba’s citizenry, but overall my impression was that, yes, they do want change for the better….but that they want it to come through their own efforts and their own system as it continues to evolve.  I did not find one person who wanted change to come through U.S. intervention, or through the meddling of Miami’s politicians.

    I did also find that the less educated people were, the more inclination there was to wanting to leave the island and head for Miami….not because they felt politically oppressed….but more because they wanted to “make money.”  Your experiences may be different.  These were my impressions based on what I saw and what others told me.

  11. Follow up post #11 added on November 09, 2007 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    MiamiCuban, I agree with you that most of the people do want the change to come from the US or any other country. Neither do I.
    However most of the people (in my opinion over 90%) are extremely unhappy with the so-called “Revolution” and the government, and a very high percentage (over 50%) of the Cuban population is interested in leaving the country one way or the other.
    Cubans are very patriotic and would not approve an US intervention (again neither do I), and I presume that most of the people that have expressed feelings against Castro still would be against any way or shape of foreign intervention in Cuba.
    However one thing is foreign intervention and another is supporting the Pro-Democracy movement in Cuba.
    In my informed opinion I can tell you that the cause of the crisis where Cuba is right now is the dictatorship regime of Fidel Castro. Don’t look for any other cause because that’s the only one.
    That’s the regime that runs a country where only one word against the official propaganda can land you in the most infamous jails.
    I do Support 100% the Pro-Democracy movement in Cuba and any measure from any foreign government to give relevance to this patriotic Cubans fighting peacefully for the freedom and democracy in their country.

  12. Follow up post #12 added on November 10, 2007 by HavanAndrew

    Hi everyone, I have just returned from Havana and want everyone to know that absolutely nothing has changed in real world terms. Fidel is a non issue, no one really cares about him, he does however have a great deal of power through the systems he put in place a long time ago. The trade show is all about money, and the hords of corporate sluts were there to get money from Cuba.

    A very close friend in Havana shared with me a common belief based on part fact and speculation that Raul is not the figure of power, rather a transitional puppet for the younger communists that have the real power now.

    The same friend expressed this about the system. All he wants is choice, the choice to travel the world freely, the ability to come and go from Cuba, the choice to relocate within his own country, the ability to better himself and provide for his family. If Cuba is a success and such a wonderful country the leaders in Cuba would not have to impose such repressive policies on its own people. Eliminating repression will go a long way! It doesn’t matter if you are socialist or pro-democracy, repression should be eliminated and enabling the human spirit a new Cuban policy.

  13. Follow up post #13 added on November 10, 2007 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Thanks for the update and insight. Good to hear from you.

    Please post more “word on the street” type comments as I find that very interesting and hard to come by. There is always the Cuba Forum here http://havanajournal.com/forums/ where you can easily post your own topic and posts are less formal over there.

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