And Sanchez put on the guayabera

An expected visit to Cuba

To some it seems surprising that the President of the Government has decided to make an official trip to the Republic of Cuba, when what should really be of concern is the fact that the last official visit took place in November 1986, with Felipe González in front of our country. Despite the absence of an official agenda, Don Juan Carlos always maintained a good relationship with Fidel that materialized – once again – with his presence at the Comandante funerals in November 2016 and the Casa Real is looking for a date to visit the island ( it seems that by the end of 2019).

Felipe González was not the first president to visit the State Island. Adolfo Suárez had already done it twice: in September of 1978 (when he was the first head of a European executive to officially visit Cuba) and in August of 1981, with an encounter with Fidel included. Aznar, whose grandfather lived in Havana, also set foot on the island in November 1999 along with Don Juan Carlos and Doña Sofía, that time as an assistant to the IX Ibero-American Summit. Castro had already been received the previous year by the President of the Government in the Moncloa Palace, a couple of days after they both met in person in Oporto. Rodríguez Zapatero, former president, met with Raúl Castro in Havana in May 2015, and Mariano Rajoy was about to do it this year.

In recent years Cuba has received other important official visits such as those of François Hollande and Matteo Renzi, in 2015, of Barack Obama and Justin Trudeau, in 2016, Juan Manuel Santos in 2017 or Antonio Guterres in 2018. Of course, he also received the visit of the Supreme Pontiffs Benedict XVI (2012) and Francisco I (2015) Why, then, was Pedro Sánchez the exception?

Spain and Investement in Cuba

After all, Spain remains one of the main investors and commercial partners of Cuba, occupying the third place in both categories and only after China and Venezuela. The annual figure of commercial exchange is about 950 million euros per year and the cumulative investment could exceed 300 million euros (very concentrated in sectors such as tobacco, tourism or financial services). The trend is in the future: during the first semester of 2018, Spanish exports to Cuba grew by seven percent compared to the previous semester.

Sanchez’s agenda in Havana includes important tasks such as the renegotiation of long and short-term bilateral debt, the definitive start-up of the counter-value fund of the debt conversion program or the establishment of new instruments to finance projects. Spanish in Cuba.

Most of the accredited companies and branches in Cuba are Spanish

The Cuban Government has recognized that the largest number of accredited companies and branches in Cuba are Spanish, and that they can be strategic in the development of key sectors for the Cuban economy such as agri-food, financial, hotel, industrial production or infrastructures. But not only in these sectors the Spanish company is welcome: Cuba has shown interest in modernizing its banking system, establishing electronic administration, creating a wholesale food market, finishing shaping the regime and scope of self-employed workers, self-employed workers, and cooperatives, as well as streamline the processes of negotiation and establishment of foreign investment.

As attractions for the Spanish company, Cuba offers security, a key geographical situation to become the logistics hub of the Caribbean, highly qualified human capital, a portfolio of investment opportunities that is renewed and published annually with defined projects and, especially, the opportunity for the foreign investor to be able to become part of a planned economy. Cuba has legal instruments with which to protect all foreign investments such as the foreign investment law of 2014 or its membership of the New York Convention of 1958 regarding the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitral awards. But it is also that Spanish companies have other legal instruments negotiated ad hoc between both nations, such as the Agreement for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments (Appri) or the Agreement to Avoid Double Taxation.

Experience shows that investment tends to happen to exports, and Spanish companies -which have been supplying products to the Cuban market for, in some cases, decades- could lead investment processes that seek to produce in Cuba to supply both the domestic market and to other countries in the region. Within the framework of the reform and updating of the Cuban socialist model, championed by a profound constitutional reform, Spanish companies -in rejoinders of an active economic diplomacy- have the necessary tools to stay and grow in Diaz-Canel’s Cuba.

Download the Spanish  article on PDF, published on the Expansión newspaper

AUTHOR

Jose Maria Viñals