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The Cuban Ambassador on Opportunity and Trade with the US

His Excellency, José Ramon Cabañas Rodríguez, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to the United States addressed a luncheon meeting of business leaders at the Detroit Economic Club (DEC). Photo: CBR staff

His Excellency, José Ramon Cabañas Rodríguez, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to the United States addressed a luncheon meeting of business leaders at the Detroit Economic Club (DEC) on March 21.  Coincidental or not, the timing of his invitation to the DEC is exactly one year after the historical visit to Cuba of former President Barack Obama.  It was a sold-out audience for the Ambassador’s presentation on “The State of Relations Between Cuba and the U.S. and Future Opportunities.”

The Detroit Economic Club is a non-profit, non-partisan organization founded in 1934.  Every U.S. President since Richard Nixon has spoken at the DEC.  It’s an important venue with a global reputation for hosting international dignitaries and business leaders.  Most recently, Mexico’s Secretary of Economy, and the Russian Ambassador to the United States have presented at DET meetings.  In the rapidly changing business and political environment of the 21st century, nothing stands still for long and there’s a distinct advantage to obtaining information firsthand from the news makers.

Ambassador Cabañas’ presentation on U.S.-Cuba relations gave key points in the relationship and the latest stats on foreign investment.  There are opportunities, he said, for Michigan businesses and agriculture.

The Ambassador also spoke of change in the U.S.-Cuba relationship, explaining that the relationship is not at a standstill.  There are a number of significant milestones passed which illustrate fluid and evolving relations between the U.S. and Cuba.  For example, since July 20, 2015, there’s been a total of 26 official visits between both nations.

There’s also been a shift in Cuban-American attitudes over the years have since 1991.  Recent polls demonstrate changing Cuban-American sentiment.  Poll data shows increased support among Cuban-Americans for lifting the U.S. embargo, the numbers rising from 14% to 63% today.

Progress can also be seen by the number of bilateral instruments adopted (now standing at 22 between the years 2015 to 2017 in such industries as air transportation, agriculture and healthcare.

Ambassador Cabañas introduced the Detroit business audience to the changes in the Cuban economic model and the development plan to 2030.

Cuba offers foreign investment opportunities which can be found in its “Portfolio of Investments.”  There are more than 300 opportunities, some no longer available because they’re already been snapped up by foreign investors.  But Cuba is not limited by its Portfolio and is open to reviewing other proposals for foreign investment according to the Ambassador.

A wide variety of international big brand name corporations have signed with Cuba, not only in its Special Economic Zone (ZEDM) at the Port of Mariel but throughout the Island.  Since 2015, the U.S. and Cuba have signed 26 business agreements in tourism, energy and biotechnology.  Cuba’s first export (charcoal) to the U.S. was shipped at the start of this year.

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Probably the most significant Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to date is the signing of agreements with seven ports of the U.S., opening up the most important ports in preparation of trade with Cuba.

Foreign investment is increasing rapidly and there’s an abundance of opportunities for Michigan businesses seeking opportunities in Cuba.

Watch the video below to view of a segment of Ambassador Cabañas presentation at the DET.

In this clip he speaks about the rapid pace of change in Cuba as well as in private enterprise.  “First you have to walk before you run,” he stated of a government dealing with this amount of rapid change in the business sphere.  Cuba is moving forward.

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