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The UAE and Cuba – Expanding Trade Relations

Opening of the UAE Embassy in Havana. Photo courtesy:

The United Arab Emirates, a federation of seven emirates, has shared diplomatic relations with Cuba since 2002. The relationship commenced and was formalized by an agreement signed in Cairo in that year.

In October 2009, the UAE Foreign Minister, Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, was invited by the Cuban Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla, to visit Havana. The official visit resulted the signing of several agreements of cooperation in the trade and technical sectors.

Al Nahyan, in speaking with the local press said, “We have great confidence in Cuba’s leaders and in our capacity to carry out these kinds of projects.”

In 2014, Saif Mohammed al Suwaidi, Director General of the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) headed a delegation of officials and representatives of national airlines on a two-day visit to Cuba. An open skies agreement to allow the airlines of both nations to operate in each others’ territories and new plans for flights were agreed upon. According to al Suwaidi, the open skies agreement was a part of a strategy to boost trade with other countries.

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Diplomatic relations between the UAE and Cuba were officially formalized in October of 2015 with the opening of the UAE embassy in Havana. Dubai’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed was welcomed by Cuba’s first vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel and Minister Rodriguez to the flag raising ceremony. During the visit, agreements for further cooperation in aviation and renewable energy development were signed.

Over the past couple of years the UAE and Cuba have participated together in a number of investment forums and conferences. Following the opening of the embassy, the first UAE-Cuba Investment Forum took place in Dubai. A delegation of 50 senior Cuban government officials attended the forum headed by Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment.

Speaking at the UAE-Cuba Investment Forum, the Director of Economic Affairs and International Cooperation Department at MoFA, Fahad Al Taffaq said:

“We stress the importance of a sound legal framework for the relationship to grow. In that regard, we hope to see an agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and Investment Protection Agreement between the UAE and Cuba in the future” he said.

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“Cuba is a prominent country in the Caribbean region, and we look forward to promoting Cuba as a hub for UAE investments in the region. We note the Potential for the UAE & Cuba to invest together in the Caribbean region,” he added.

“Our bilateral relations have developed over the past few years in all areas of cooperation, and we look forward to the continuation of such visits in order to develop and strengthen our bilateral relations. It brings me great pleasure to bear witness to this vital juncture of our bilateral history, and I look forward to the positive impact of this Forum on both countries.” H.E said.

The UAE-Cuba Investment forum focused on the investment climate of Cuba, the special development zones on the Island, and the investment opportunities in the genetic engineering, biotechnology and pharmaceutical sectors.

In April for the first time, Cuban government officials attended the Annual Investment Meeting (AIM) held in Dubai. At the AIM conference, Cuba presented its investment portfolio as well as the special development zone at the Port of Mariel.

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This past November Cuban officials attended the Global Business Forum on Latin America – “Shifting Synergies” in Dubai. Shifting Synergies focused on the region’s growing interest in investment in the emerging markets of Latin America and particularly that of Cuba.

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