Cuba trades with countries around the world — and wants to do even more. This is the message from the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, which held an event with the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (FIESP) on September 20th and 21st. The “Brazil-Cuba Business Forum” highlighted investment opportunities for businesspeople in both countries.
“Trade standards in Cuba are the same standards that exist internationally. So there is potential to work with different political systems, which has never been an obstacle in the case of Cuba. I believe that there is a view among the Brazilian business community that there are opportunities in Cuba. We are not only talking about products from the primary, agricultural sector, but also industrial products”, says the president of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, Antonio Luis Carricarte Corona, in an interview with Brazil in fact.
Corona participated in the event at Fiesp alongside the vice-president of the business entity, Rafael Cervone. There was a presentation by the Cuban Foreign Ministry on “investment opportunities” and also on the Mariel Special Development Zone. According to Havana authorities, the meeting was attended by 27 Cuban members and around 50 Brazilian businesspeople and personalities.
The initiative is part of an economic reform plan on the island. Since 2021, Cuba has been undergoing economic changes called “Task Ordering”. Among the changes are the permission for trade in dollars, rules for the opening of wholesale stores and mixed companies, with private and state participation.
On a recent trip to Italy, the president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, took the opportunity to participate in a working lunch with representatives of Italian business chambers.
In May, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, visited Havana and participated in talks, in addition to signing agreements on the development of small and medium-sized companies on the Caribbean island.
In trade with Brazil, Havana authorities believe there is room for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. “There are products in Cuba that are very modern for treating cancer and diabetes. Some dermatological pathologies such as vitiligo, on the dermatological side, retinitis pigmentosa, which are diseases that also exist in Brazil”, says the representative of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce.
In 2022, Brazil exported US$290 million to Cuba and the main items were vegetable fats and oils (33%), rice (17%) and poultry meat (13%). In the same period, imports were US$2.67 million, with emphasis on cigars, cigarettes and tobacco products (84%) and alcoholic beverages (9%). The data are from the Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Services.
Check out the full interview with the president of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, Antonio Luis Carricarte Corona.
Brasil de Fato: How was the meeting at Fiesp? What are the objectives of your stay in Brazil?
My objective is, firstly, based on the transformations that are taking place in Cuba after a period of crisis, the pandemic that led us to a complex situation. Today the country begins a recovery based on tourism and measures that have been taken, including a national development plan that has priorities that, in our opinion, constitute priorities for Brazilian businesspeople.
For example, it is necessary to increase food production in Cuba and Brazil has potential by providing raw materials, teams, products, parts, technology for agriculture to increase food production in Cuba.
We are providing Brazilian businesspeople with these opportunities so that they can be linked to this Cuban development program. Today Brazilian participation is, let’s say, modest, but Brazil has the capacity to supply corn, soybeans and other products.
Also in renewable energy, in Cuba there is a percentage of participation [de energia renovável] relatively low, around 5% and we hope to increase this number to 30% in 2030. Brazil has the potential to participate.
Brazilian tourism after the pandemic is growing, but not in the case of Cuba. And it was discussed with the airlines, with the airports, to seek a direct connection that would allow increasing tourism in Brazil, and not just sun and beach tourism, also health and well-being tourism.
Have you ever been to Brazil for events like this? Or is this the first time that the Chamber of Commerce has held an event with FIESP?
Years ago we also held an event in São Paulo, in 2002, a long time ago. Conditions changed in Cuba and Brazil.
Why do you think it took so long for an event like this commercial approach to happen again?
I believe it has to do with the agenda, because Brazil always participates in the Havana Fair, not just the Chamber [de Comércio]. It is a meeting point for businesspeople.
Now I think we have an opportune moment because in Cuba there is an update to the economic model, there are variations that it is important for Brazilian businesspeople to know about. There is an emerging private sector, which in three years of establishment already has more than 9 thousand private companies, which have the capacity to import and export with their own financing and are purchasing many products. And Brazil could be an important market, and this reality we wanted to transfer here.
What was it like talking to Brazilian businesspeople? Because there are many possibilities, but there is a stigma against Cuba.
First we realized that there is an interest. The business community, the economy is one, Cuba trades with the world, not just with Brazil. Spain is one of the main Cuban markets, Canada, which has a different political system, the political system has no participation in the possibilities of commercial ties. And Cuba is a member of the original World Trade Organization.
Commerce standards in Cuba are the same standards that exist internationally. So there is potential to work with different political systems, which has never been an obstacle in the case of Cuba. I believe that there is a view among the Brazilian business community that there are opportunities in Cuba and a potential that is not only talking about products from the primary, agricultural sector, but also industrial products.
Which point would you highlight that would have the most potential to expand trade from Cuba to Brazil?
I believe that in Cuba we would have the potential to complement our relationships in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. There are products in Cuba that are very modern for treating cancer and diabetes. Some dermatological pathologies such as vitiligo, in the dermatological part, retinitis pigmentosa, which are diseases that also exist in Brazil.
I believe that both in the pharmaceutical and technological industry, participating in a cooperative way, we would say, in projects. And in the sale too, these would be contributions that Cuba would have for Brazil, and also in tourism, health tourism and well-being tourism.
Mining can also be an important sector, we export zeolite to Brazil, it is a substrate that has a lot of versatility, both for agriculture, fertilizers and cosmetics.
You said that trade is the same for everyone, but this event occurs after Lula returned to the presidency and a few days ago he was at the UN General Assembly denouncing the US blockade against Cuba. So we could talk about commercial exchange, but also if there is a relationship between this event and what happens within the Brazilian government?
Without a doubt, a friendly government, a government with affinity, supports and helps economic and commercial relations. And I believe that on this occasion it is also a propitious moment not only with the central part, Brazil is very big, because on this occasion we went to the states, based on the potential that the states present. The Northeast Consortium has potential, it has a group in Bahia and Ceará that is working on industrialization linked to exports. And a favorable climate is created to increase state commercial relations as well.
I believe that it is clear that the favorable climate in relations that can be created supports and helps the advancement of commercial relations and we greatly appreciate the solidarity expressed by the Brazilian government in the struggle of the Cuban people against the blockade.
And what are the Cuban government’s objectives with its economic reforms?
I believe that firstly, support for progress in relations between small, medium and micro-enterprises, the family economy. The very results that cooperatives have had here in Brazil, all of this can be inserted into commercial relations and diversify the actors that participate.
And, without a doubt, it can and should bring prosperity to the people, to the regions, to the States. We are advancing in Cuba, based on the Constitution, increasing territorial and business autonomy, the participation of the private sector. All of this creates a mosaic of opportunities that we want to take advantage of between companies in both countries.
Editing: Patrícia de Matos