Havana International Trade Fair, Optimism in Cuba’s Business Mecca
By Tomás A. Granados / Photos by Cubaplus
The 28th Havana International Trade Fair (FIHAV) closed its doors this year in an atmosphere of notable optimism, shared by the more than 2,000 exhibitors from 57 countries who gathered from November 1st to 6th in the halls and gardens of the ExpoCuba fairgrounds, located 20 km south of Cuba’s capital.
Since its inception in 1982 when the fair was attended by only 88 impresarios from Cuba, Spain, and Panama, FIHAV has become a major industry event honoured by visits of governmental delegations and business people and celebrating the National Days of countries with official pavilions and cultural programs.
Considered Cuba’s most important commercial meeting, the 2010 FIHAV opened with the good news that Cuba had reduced its commercial deficit by 7 percent in the first nine months of the year. According to the announcement by Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba’s exports increased 21 percent between January and September, compared to the previous year, while imports increased 1 percent in the same period.
“We advance in the right direction, opening a space for justified optimism,” said Malmierca.
This positive evolution has also permitted “a gradual confrontation of liquidity difficulties in foreign finances, as well as the negative consequences implied for both Cuba and its counterparts,” Malmierca explained. Economic observers highlight that Cuba is fulfilling its debt obligations, which, in many cases, had to be renegotiated because of the effects of the global financial crisis. Experts expect Cuba’s financial position to improve with the implementation of a government program to update the national economic model. “Our global business partners can now relax since the results of the updating process of the Cuban economic model will contribute to strengthening relations,” Malmierca said.
Cuba has commercial ties with more than 180 countries. Of them, Spain had the greatest presence at this year’s edition of FIHAV, with more than 70 companies represented. According to Spanish Ambassador Manuel Cacho, Cuba’s exports to Spain in 2010 have grown 6.5 percent, over the same period the previous year. Canada remained as one of Cuba’s leading commercial partners and the main dispatcher of tourists to the Caribbean island, with 780, 000 visitors as of October (a 2 percent increase compared to 2009) and expected to reach one million next year.
During his visit to FIHAV, Ambassador Levin told the press that Cuba is one of the main tourist destinations for Canadians because of its many attractions. However, he noted that more than its beautiful beaches and historic centers, Cuba’s special appeal is the nature of its people. “Cubans are very hospitable and visitors like that a lot,” he said.
Ambassador Levin noted that Cuba-Canada relations are favourable and get stronger with each new edition of FIHAV. Among the most important areas products of trade between the two countries are natural resources, such as nickel as well as agricultural and food products and supplies of machinery and equipment.