The Chinese are Back in Town

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Premier Li Keqiang of China has arrived in Havana after stopping off in New York for the 71st United Nations General Assembly and an official visit to Canada. It is the first visit of a Chinese premier since the countries established diplomatic relations 56 years ago. Premier Li’s official visit to Havana aims to deepen economic and commercial relations between the two nations.

China is currently Cuba’s second largest trade partner, but it’s the top destination for Cuban exports. Last year in 2015, trade between these two countries totaled $1.6 billion, a whopping increase of more than 50% from 2014.

During Li’s visit, it is reported he will be signing cooperative and economic agreements in addition to the ones already signed by the two countries. There will be more opportunities and agreements to be signed in the industry sectors of technology, banking and investments, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, education, agriculture, renewable energy, tourism, and environmental protection.

The Chinese take on Cuba is trade positive. At the announcement of Li’s visit, Wang Chao, China’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs said, “We believe that to strengthen economic cooperation with Cuba will not only benefit Cuba’s development, but also benefit Cuba’s cooperation with other countries and the growth of the global economy.”

Chinese – Cuban joint venture projects are already well underway. Chinese technology company Huawei has been expanding Cuba’s Wifi internet infrastructure. It was almost a year ago now that Huawei signed a telecommunications agreement with ETECSA to supply the fiber optic links for a broadband project in Havana.

Since 2005, the Chinese Zhengzhou Yutong Bus Co. buses have filled the streets of Cuba transporting Cubans and tourists to their desired destinations.

A flight agreement between Cuba and China in December 2015 opened up the airways for direct flights between Beijing and Havana, filling the planes with Chinese tourists.

Tourism infrastructure development is another area of activity in which the Chinese are involved. The Chinese corporation Beijing Enterprise Group is involved in the development of a golf course and resort located between Havana and Varadero. The Chinese are also building more of the hotels Cuba needs to help serve the sudden increase in tourism numbers.

China has supplied Cuba with a couple of credit lines for infrastructure development, one for purchasing Chinese tractors and another for railway cars. The expansion of the port of Santiago de Cuba is also being completed with Chinese funding. China’s contributions to the development of infrastructure has been vital to the development and modernization of the Cuban economy.

China, like many other nations, is eager to strengthen its bilateral relations with Cuba before the Americans lift the embargo and American business enters the Cuban market. Cuba presents a strategic partnership for the Chinese, building on their presence in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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