In the news this week is the official visit of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who is accompanied by a trade delegation of 60 government officials and entrepreneurs.
The stop in Havana is a part of the trade mission’s six day tour of Latin American countries which include visits to Nicaragua, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela.
Members of the delegation is comprised of government officials and private business people representing a wide range of industry sectors including renewable energy, tourism, pharmaceuticals, construction and oil.
The official visit is a follow-up trip to the visit made by Cuba’s Vice-president of the Cuban Council of Ministers, Ricardo Cabrisas, to Tehran earlier in August. In Tehran, Mr. Cabrisas met with Iran’s Head of State, Hassan Rouhani.
Rodrigo Malmierca, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, met with Mr. Zarif and his delegation at the Hotel Nacional in Havana. Mr. Zarif praised the Cuban-Iranian relationship as, “old and well-established,” calling Cuba, “a friendly and revolutionary country.”
Iran is a part of the growing number of Middle Eastern countries taking a serious look at opportunities in the emerging markets of Latin America. The Latin American region and Cuba in particular provide enormous investment potential in areas of infrastructure, renewable energy, tourism, and agriculture. The growing interest of the Middle East in Latin America can be seen in the upcoming “Shifting Synergies” Global Business Forum on Latin America set for this November at the Atlantis Palm hotel in Dubai.
Iran and Cuba enjoy long term bilateral relations. The Persian – Cuban relationship goes further back in time than this month’s official visits. Iran and Cuba have embassies in each others’ capital cities.
In January of 2006, Cuba and Iran signed a cooperation agreement. For the last 30 years, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has described relations with Cuba as “firm and progressive.” In a 2012, visit, Ahmadinejad met with both former President Fidel Castro and current President Raul Castro.
Balance of trade figures between Iran and Cuba are up as at the end of December 2015. (As reported by Trading Economics).
Another commonality is that both Cuba and Iran have been the target of an American embargo and placed on an American terror list. Now that Iran has been removed from the embargoed status, it is looking to ramp up business with Cuba.
This week’s agenda of the Iranian visit to Cuba is for the primary purpose of expanding and strengthening economic relations between the countries. The benefits of trade and investment is a two-way street for both nations. Iran is just one of the 160 nations that have formal relations with Cuba.