World Economy

Cuba Invites NZ Investors

Cuba Invites NZ InvestorsCuba Invites NZ Investors

Leaders from embargo-hit Cuba have invited New Zealand businesses to invest in the island’s economy. The country, which struggles under a tough US trade, economic and financial blockade, says it wants other nations around the world to realize it is “open for business.”

On a whistlestop, three-day tour of Auckland, the president of the independently-run Cuban Institute for Friendship with the Peoples, Kenia Serrano, said New Zealand businesses had an opportunity to ramp up investment in Cuba, where the government is looking for the latest technology and agricultural expertise, Cuba’s Business Day online reported.

New Zealand already exports to Cuba, with the bulk being made up of milk powder and products. But Cuba says its list of desirable investment sectors take in high-tech products, construction and agricultural innovation, where New Zealand is a world leader.

Serrano, who is also a Cuban member of parliament, said: “There are some challenges to trading with Cuba, such as not being able to use the US dollar as a trading currency for example. Arrangements for long payment times have to be different too, to avoid cash-flow problems, but these are surmountable problems.

“Cuba is working to diversify its foreign trade into Europe, South America and the Asia-Pacific region with friendly businesses and governments. We have adopted that strategy so that our socialist system is a sustainable one.”

 New Investments

The country is also investing in new technologies. Around a quarter of the population has access to the internet, despite serious problems caused by having to access websites through the US. And there are three million cellphones as it is the easiest, and most affordable way to access the internet.

Serrano said the Cuban government had a target to ensure every classroom in the country had access to the web by 2018.

She said the country saw US President Obama’s moves to allow US citizens to travel to Cuba under license as a positive step towards the eventual lifting of the embargo, which would allow trade and skills to be more widely shared.

“Despite the immense pressure on finances, there is a huge effort to keep up to date so that when the embargo is lifted, Cuba will not have fallen so far behind the rest of the world. Since the talks with President Obama, there is a misunderstanding that the embargo has been lifted, but that is not the case.

She said the exchange of culture also included skills and services. In February, the Cuban government signed a cooperation agreement with New Zealand to assist with the costs and language training for Cuban doctors bound for the Pacific islands.

Serrano said trade included healthcare and services. “We have medical brigades in 67 countries and to us, trade means support for the people of the world because of the political willingness to protect human beings above all.”