China and Cuba Discuss Trade and Investment

As the last stop on his four-country Latin American tour, Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Cuban President Raúl Castro to discuss, among other things, increasing bilateral trade and investment. President Xi was greeted with military honors at Cuba’s Palace of the Revolution, the venue for talks between the two leaders. As the only single-party communist state in the Americas, Cuba started opening up its economy in 2008 with limited success, but observers note that Cuba appears to be following in China’s footsteps with regard to economic and trade reforms, which lays a foundation for increased cooperation between the two countries.

China is already Cuba’s primary source of credit, as well as being its second-largest trading partner, after Venezuela. Cuba has long been barred from trading with the United States, and is excluded from dealings with the World Bank, so strengthening ties with China is seen as vitally important to the Caribbean island. The new free-trade zone and container port of Mariel in northwest Cuba will serve to facilitate increased trade, and more than fifty entrepreneurs from China are also visiting Havana, the capital of Cuba, to investigate and promote business opportunities.

Deborah Rivas, Cuba’s director-general for foreign investment, was reported as saying that the country wants Chinese businessmen to invest in Cuba, as well as to partner with Cuban companies. On the agenda for President Xi’s is a trip to Santiago de Cuba, where he is exptected to make an announcement regarding cooperative deals between China and Cuba. It is speculated that these deals may include rebuilding housing which was destroyed in October 2012 by Hurricane Sandy.

President Xi’s trip started off in Brazil – one of the five BRICS countries – and included Argentina and Venezuela. Trade between China and Latin American countries has seen rapid growth, reaching more than $260 billion in 2013.