The meeting between Cuban President Raúl Castro and the Premier of the Canadian Province of Quebec, Philippe Couillard, endorsed the willingness to open up new horizons in bilateral economic and trade relations and showed mutual contentment with the current state of relations. On an official two day visit to the Island, Couillard expressed his satisfaction with the positive ties between the countries, especially with the province of Quebec, as well as the objective of further developing them in several spheres. That interest was also shown through exchanges with the Vice-President of the Council of Ministers Ricardo Cabrisas and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez. Couillard’s agenda included participating in a business forum, as head of a large delegation organized by the Quebec Ministry of Economy, Science and Innovation, highlighting the importance of this large representation of prestigious companies. He is interested in contributing to the development of relations in sectors such as research, innovation, education, science, construction, culture, energy, environment, the agri-food industry and tourism. Addressing 70 entrepreneurs from over 43 Quebec entities, Couillard emphasized that openness favors business and trade in all those areas, and that the objective of this meeting was to expand the ties and working relationship with Cuban counterparts. On that basis, he invited them to discover new horizons, particularly in the Cuban biotechnology industry and educational institutions. He also emphasized that Quebec has always stood by Cuba, especially in its fight against the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on the country by the United States.
“Quebec wants to build a sustainable and mutually beneficial relationship with Cuba. I am particularly pleased that our companies, institutions and researchers will have a framework for cooperation to intensify our relations for the benefit of the citizens of our two societies,” said Couillard. Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment (Mincex) Rodrigo Malmierca talked about Canada’s role in the Island’s external relations, and recalled that although last year bilateral trade slowed, it reached about 793 million dollars, making it Cuba’s fourth largest trading partner, preceded by China, Venezuela and Spain. He also noted that Canada is the largest source of tourists to Cuba with 1.3 million visitors annually, 37% of last year’s intake. It also occupies second place among the countries doing most business here in the fields of petroleum, energy, mining and tourism. Forty offices are located in Havana, of which nine are from Quebec. Malmierca indicated that relations with Canada will settle in the future, as it has been a loyal partner that has maintained trade with Cuba despite the offshore provisions that the US embargo imposes on companies that do business with the Island.
Canada imports Cuban minerals such as nickel, in fact Canadian companies operate as joint ventures with the Cuban Government to extract the raw material and then process it on Canadian soil. In addition, it is a major consumer of Cuban rum and tobacco. On its end, the Island gets wheat, sulfides, poultry, copper and other products from Canada. The business forum was a propitious scenario for Cuba and Quebec for signing three agreements that will promote the progress of bilateral economic and trade ties, in areas such as tourism and the biopharmaceutical. The documents signed were: a Joint Declaration between Mincex and the Quebec Ministry of International Relations and Francophonie focused on developing cooperation; a second bilateral agreement on the first stage of a collaboration between the Quebec Institute of Tourism and Hospitality and Cuba’s Ministry of Tourism and National Tourism System; and a third consisting of a strategic collaboration between the Chief Scientist Office and the Superior Organization of BioCubaFarma Business Management for the implementation of the Quebec-Canada-China-Cuba brain mapping.