World Economy

Japan Seeks Deeper Economic Ties With Cuba

Japan Seeks Deeper Economic Ties With CubaJapan Seeks Deeper Economic Ties With Cuba

Japan seeks to launch what the country’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida referred to as a “new scheme of Japanese cooperation of wide range, large scale” with Cuba to support Raul Castro’s reforms at a time of a thaw in the relations between Washington and Havana, Sputnik reported.

Kishida outlined the plan, otherwise known as “non-reimbursable financial assistance,” during his three-day visit to the island, a first for a Japanese foreign minister. Accompanied by approximately 30 Japanese company executives, Kishida is tasked with strengthening economic ties, boosting investment and deepening cooperation with Havana in a number of areas.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez spoke of promoting “multifaceted cooperation” with Japan during a meeting with Kishida, adding that Havana is interested in strengthening trade, investment and scientific cooperation with Tokyo.

Japan’s foreign minister came to Havana following a visit to the United States. He welcomed recent developments in the relations between the US and Cuba during a meeting with State Secretary John Kerry, adding that Japan wants to support the effort.

Tokyo is primarily interested in the US lifting the embargo it imposed on Cuba in 1962. The restrictions make it hard for the Japanese companies to conduct business with the island.

Japan’s diplomatic relations with Cuba were established in 1929. Bilateral trade between Japan and Cuba amounts to $52 million. Tokyo mainly imports tobacco, coffee and fish from Cuba, exporting machinery to the island.

 US-Cuba Ties

A meeting on April 11 between US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro marked the first such personal encounter between the leaders of the two neighboring countries since 1958.

The session held during the Summit on the Americas, in which Cuba participated for the first time, was the most visible step toward ending a half century of strained relations dating back to the Cuban revolution.

A day earlier, the highest-level official meeting between Cuban and US representatives in decades took place in Panama City as John Kerry met with Bruno Rodriguez in what the State Department described as a lengthy and productive session.

In remarks to reporters April 11, Obama said he and Castro have concluded “that we can disagree with a spirit of respect and civility.” Over time, he added, “it is possible for us to turn the page and develop a new relationship between our two countries.”

Castro spoke at length in formal remarks at the summit, in part listing what Cubans have considered US offenses against his country, but then agreeing with everything Obama had said. He said while the two nations have “agreed to disagree” sometimes, Cuba is willing to take up any topic of stress between the two countries, including human rights and press freedom.