CUBA-FOREIGN SECTOR, Far-reaching transformations
By: Roberto Salomón
The International Fair of Havana celebrates in 2011 its 29th edition among great expectations created by the start of a transformation and upgrading process in foreign trade and foreign investment areas, in accordance with a group of new economic guidelines promoted by Cuban authorities. With an exchange nearing 10 billion dollars a year, Cuba’s foreign trade has a relevant position in the said guidelines, which were conceived to strengthen the country’s response capability in the present international situation, and after performing a meticulous diagnosis identifying necessary changes in all spheres of economic, social and cultural development.
This ongoing process does not only have a cardinal end achieving sustainability in the food, economic and environmental areas, but also for sufficient institutional flexibility, international competitiveness and a new structure of relations between state and society. Of the 313 approved guidelines, no fewer than 45 deal with the foreign sector, with recommendations of measures to encourage exports and substitute imports. The latter is to avoid expending more than one billion dollars to purchase products that can be developed in the archipelago.
In light of these guidelines, one of the primary objectives is to increase revenue from exports of goods and services. According to experts, this entails resolving all internal order situations that remain obstacles for the proper development of the said activity.
There is a need to create genuine export-orientation at all levels and support, with market research, the most important strategic decisions in this sector. Due to Cuba’s condition as an open economy country, its strong foreign trade, traditionally among the region’s most dynamic, has always played a major role in sustaining the nation with sales of sugar, cigars, nickel, beverages and other traditional products.
In the last two decades the increased in revenue from tourism and medical services in other countries has helped changing Cuba’s export profile.
According to official numbers in 1989 service exports accounted for 9 % of trade, now they exceed 70 %. In the whole of those exports stand out the medical personnel services, which moved tourism to second place, the main source of income for the previous decade.
The guidelines applied to foreign trade activities also seek greater promotion and sales of new products for Cuban exports: particularly those from biotechnology and the medical and pharmaceutical industry.
Regarding the issue of imports and foreign capital association, the main purpose is to use appropriate mechanisms to encourage and ensure maximum possible use of all the country’s capabilities in the agricultural, industrial, services and human resources sectors.
Businesses with foreign capital operating in the country are now concentrated in tourism, oil and oil products, mining, industry and communications. Present negotiations for new projects in diverse trade spheres are taking place with companies from, among others, Angola, Brazil, China, Russia, Spain, Venezuela, and Vietnam. The economic upgrading process started with the new guidelines also intends to have foreign investments aimed at establishing businesses and partnerships abroad that would allow a better position of Cuba in foreign markets. At present the country has trade links with over three thousand companies on five continents, and exchange relations with more than 170 nations.
In the records of the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Cuba, there are some 800 member companies. This institution is taking steps to support the internationalization process of Cuban companies and organizes missions to other markets, including participation in stock markets of the countries visited.