Exclusive interview granted by the president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Cuba to CubaPLUS magazine
BY MERCEDES RAMOS, PHOTOS: NORLYS PÉREZ
Created in 1963 by Law 1091, the Cuban Chamber of Commerce has the fundamental mission of promoting the internationalization of Cuban enterprise. It has five territorial delegations: Villa Clara-Sancti Spíritus, Cienfuegos (recently created), Ciego de Ávila-Camagüey, Las Tunas- Holguín and Granma-Santiago de Cuba-Guantánamo, and it is made up of 887 associates, with a growing trend.
The Chamber, explained its president Antonio Luis Carricarte to CubaPLUS magazine, has worked with the country’s economic development since beginning and continues to do so, evolving and customizing its action according to the growth and requirements of Cuban entrepreneurship, tailoring its actions and resources to contribute actively and effectively to the solution of the obstacles that arise in Cuban exports and to the promotion and development of foreign investment in Cuba.
At this moment, due to the limitations of movement and the financial difficulties facing the country, it has modified the chamber plan by replacing the fairs and exhibitions abroad and direct and indirect commercial missions, he said when referring to the situation caused by the new coronavirus. “In this context, the Chamber has participated in more than 30 videoconferences and business forums with 18 countries and 2 Regional Organizations (World Trade Centers Association and Caribbean Chamber of Commerce), accompanying our associates in the virtual business rounds that have taken place. To such ends, we work side by side with our associates in drawing up comprehensive tenders that contribute to a better positioning of our products in the international markets”, he added in an exclusive interview granted to this magazine. In short, it is about personalized support in the drive to boost foreign trade and foreign investments in Cuba, particularly the increase of exports of goods and services, the substitution of imports, the productive chains and the strengthening of the promotion and completion of projects with foreign capital, he added.
A territorial view and a vision as a country accompanies the work, by identifying, supporting and showing the ways for exportable items to be competitive and to have access to international markets, he said.
In this way, he continued, the national business community prepares itself to be able to help eliminate obstacles to foreign trade requirements, providing information technology support to participate in fairs and virtual business meetings and exploiting the benefits of social networks.
During the epidemic stage of COVID-19 he noted later, company hubs with similar activities have been set up to create skills to develop business intelligence work, create market studies and strategies for access to international markets, implement market surveillance systems and, in so doing, take advantage of niches detected or integrate into value chains that make our exports sustainable.
“It is not just a matter of providing assistance, but of joining in the specific actions of these groups of companies, which include the agrifood, steel, information technology, cultural industries and education, among others,” he emphasized.
The Chamber of Commerce, he continued, positively values the work the Agricultural Group is doing in promoting and consolidating exports of new items such as charcoal, whose value exceeded $40 million USD last year, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, among others.
These exportable items, he said, have been boosted in recent years. The Group has carried out an offensive in the creation of new producer-exporter centers, among which are: Ceballos; Contramaestre, where a mixed company has been created to promote and commercialize products using the potential of the citrus industry of that region; Guantánamo, which has the Asdrubal López coffee company, processor of the high quality grain in that mountainous region of the east of Cuba; Jagüey Grande, and others, to drive the promotion of this business group involving all territories of the country.
In answering a question about the economic blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba for almost six decades, he explained that: “the Chamber of Commerce, which practically emerged with the establishment of the blockade, has also had a leading role in finding gaps in the face of this economic, commercial and financial barrier of the United States against Cuba, which as we know has become overly aggressive with the Trump administration. In the last period, the negative effects of the blockade against Cuba exceeded $5 billion USD.
The institution has signed more than 200 agreements with Chambers of Commerce in the world, has formed Bilateral Business Committees that allow the development and strengthening of the Cuban business community’s commercial links with foreign counterparts, as well as helping to mitigate the blockade.
As for the policy carried out by the island’s government regarding facilities offered to the fledgling self-employed entrepreneur, he explained that “at present, the country has promoted relations between the state and non-state sectors, encouraging the Formas de Gestión No Estatal (FGNE) to have a role and hierarchy similar to the state ones, so that they can pursue import demand and their export possibilities.
Over 140 international sales contracts have been signed so far and they are still growing. In this sense, the Chamber of Commerce works by training in the territories and supporting the necessary interrelationship between the different actors. In the short term we could concentrate on the insertion of the FGNE in the Chamber of Commerce, the future Small and Medium Businesses Law could be a possible way to make this effort a reality,” he added.
The Chamber also plays an essential role in the process of making Cuban foreign trade more flexible. As new entities are incorporated, the institution makes all its potential available in the search for new markets, in training, education, promotion and establishment of contacts with suppliers and customers, which is a way to support the external interests of Cuba’s economic development program.
This institution is part of the International Chamber of Commerce and the World Trade Center and is licensed to operate the World Trade Center Havana brand. In addition, it is a member of the Chamber of Commerce of the Belt and Road and founder of the Caribbean Chambers of Commerce CARICHAM, as part of the work of diversifying external relations, explained Carricarte finally.