In a bold move to attract foreign investment and defy long-standing U.S. sanctions, Cuba recently hosted a business fair that saw participation from over 800 companies representing more than 60 countries. This event signals Cuba's determination to engage with the global business community and counteract the economic challenges posed by the U.S. trade embargo and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cuba's Foreign Trade Minister, Ricardo Cabrisas, emphasized the country's efforts to mitigate the negative effects of the economic blockade in his opening remarks at the forum. The U.S. has maintained its trade embargo on Cuba for decades, citing concerns about human rights and fundamental liberties as the basis for its policy.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel pointed out the significant international business support evident at the fair. He noted that this year's event marked the largest and most widely attended in the last five years, underscoring the growing confidence of businesses in Cuba.
The trade fair featured promotional booths from countries such as Spain, Russia, Iran, and China. Notably, it also included participation from small privately-owned Cuban businesses, which re-emerged just two years ago after being effectively banned for decades.
Jay Brickman, a vice president at the Crowley shipping and logistics company, highlighted the Cuban government's shift towards supporting medium and small businesses over state entities, marking a significant change in policy.
However, financing for these businesses remains hampered by U.S. sanctions, and foreign companies encounter challenges related to local regulations, bureaucracy, and currency issues when operating in Cuba.
Although the Biden administration hinted at unveiling regulatory measures to support Cuba's emerging private sector in September, these rules have yet to materialize.
Some foreign entrepreneurs, like Cuban-born Miami businessman Hugo Cancio, navigate a delicate balance with authorizations from both the U.S. and Cuba. Cancio is set to launch a new food industry brand in Cuba, DeCancio Foods, demonstrating the possibilities during a time of economic opening.
Cuba's efforts to attract foreign investment and promote its private sector reflect its determination to overcome economic challenges and bolster its position in the global market despite the persistent obstacles posed by U.S. sanctions.