Members of the Chair,
Distinguished authorities and heads of delegations,
Cuban and foreign exhibitors and visitors,
Dear friends from various parts of the world,
It is an honor to have you here for the opening ceremony of the Thirty Seventh Edition of the Havana International Trade Fair.
We can notice the hard work done by the organizers and exhibitors of this event so that the EXPOCUBA fairgrounds can convey the present image of vitality, color and organization. This time these fairgrounds are also celebrating 30 years as the customary venue of the Fair.
There are various reasons for which this opening ceremony is a special occasion. In the coming days, we will celebrate the 500th anniversary of the foundation of the village San Cristóbal de La Habana, which has been a wonderful venue for FIHAV during all the past years. Therefore, this edition will also be dedicated to the city’s anniversary, and that is evidenced by the present decoration of EXPOCUBA. In addition to this, on Tuesday, November 5th, we will have a special program of cultural and business activities in celebration of this date.
Additionally, we will have the opportunity of talking to business people and friends from various parts of the world in an atmosphere of optimism and confidence in our country’s potential. We thank them for being here and contributing to the holding of FIHAV 2019.
However, we must also recognize that this edition of the Fair is being held under very complicated circumstances.
Only thanks to the joint efforts of all the agencies, national entities and foreign companies, have we been able to deal with the limitations in terms of financial resources and other types of restrictions caused by the hardening of the genocidal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the US government against Cuba for almost 60 years.
Being able to hold this fair, in spite of all the limitations, fills us with contentment, and it demonstrates that in the midst of all the difficulties and the lack of resources, our people’s will and determination to struggle, create and triumph have always prevailed. There is another fact that is being confirmed here and it is the trust of the international business community in the Cuban Market.
The attempts to isolate Cuba and pose difficulties to our economy and the Cuban people will fail. The blockade is not only illegal and immoral, but it is also a failed policy. This very same week, the United Nations General Assembly will vote again on the Cuban resolution claiming the end of the blockade. We are certain that once again the international community will categorically support this resolution and this will definitely be a source of encouragement for every Cuban.
Despite the aggressive actions and the threats, we will not give up on the main goals of our development plans, which are reflected in the Havana International Trade Fair, as it promotes business in Cuba and provides national and foreign companies with a space to discuss their commercial and investment interests. By doing so we are true to the legacy of our unforgettable Commander in Chief, Fidel Castro Ruz, who, as we have expressed in the past, was the major promoter and supporter of this event.
During year 2019, instead of finding solutions to the political and social conflicts and the commercial wars that cause uncertainty and fear in the world, we are seeing the emergence of new conflicts that threaten to significantly slow down economic and trade growth, as well as investments at the global level.
Cuba, as a small nation with an open economy highly dependent on foreign trade, is also affected by this adverse external environment, and in particular it suffers the negative impact of the hardening of the blockade and its extraterritorial nature, with the implementation in recent months of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act, as well as new measures including those aimed at hampering the arrival of fuel supplies in Cuba or limiting remittances from the United States to Cuban families, among others.
Many of the business people present here have been impacted by the tireless financial persecution imposed by the blockade, and by the complicated circumstances arising from it. Foreign investors who have businesses in Cuba have been threatened, and, in fact, some of them are the target of suits brought before US courts by claimants expropriated in accordance with the Cuban legitimate legislation and the international law.
Even though the Helms-Burton Act will never be applicable in Cuba, this situation has forced us to activate the legal protection and support that our legislation stipulates for the foreign companies established in the island.
The financial limitations our country is faced with, for the reasons explained before, have brought about delays in the payments Cuban companies must make to honor their obligations with their suppliers. We reaffirm our government’s determination to honor its obligations. We seize this opportunity to express our gratitude for the trust and understanding of the companies that have remained on our side under the current circumstances.
In the midst of this complicated and difficult situation, we ratify, with our people’s support, the will to make progress in the updating of our economic and social model in order to build a prosperous and sustainable socialism. This year, after a broad popular consultative process that ended in a referendum, our parliament passed a new Constitution containing economic and social precepts that preserve the social gains and the fundamental welfare of our people, while giving protection to all citizens, with full guarantees for foreign capital and other forms of ownership. Our foreign economic policy reaffirms the goals set for the expansion and diversification of foreign investment and trade links; at the same time, we keep working to boost the exports of Cuban goods and services, particularly in prioritized sectors such as tourism, medical services, and the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. We will continue promoting the expansion of exports at the territorial level, and we are pleased to announce that in this Havana International Trade Fair we have an exhibition of products from all the provinces of the country.
Moreover, we remain determined to improve the conditions for trade and foreign investment by loosening some of the additional regulations of the legal framework, and trying to remove internal obstacles and restrictions, and minimize the negative impact of the blockade, especially because of its deterrent effect on potential economic and trading partners. Our efforts are aided by the creation of one-stop shop systems for Foreign Trade and Investment, which will start operating early next year.
During year 2019, foreign investment has continued making headway in the materialization of prioritized projects in strategic sectors of our economy, such as renewable energy, tourism, the industry, mining, and the agribusiness. Particular attention has been paid to the chaining of these investments with the national industry. New businesses have been approved and established in the Mariel Special Development Zone, which will have its own pavilion in this edition of the fair. Our economy needs foreign investors to play a more active role in order to boost exports and we will continue working in that direction.
In spite of the difficult situation our country is faced with, The Cuban market is still attractive due to its economic and trade potential, which is confirmed by the presence in these fairgrounds of representatives from more than 60 countries and more than four thousand accredited participants.
We are pleased to see here, as customary, large delegations of our major trading partners, especially Venezuela, Russia, China and Spain. The latter is once again the country with the greatest presence in the Fair. It is also very encouraging to have the participation of companies from many sister nations of Latin America and the Caribbean, which is an evidence of the priority assigned to economic integration in our region.
We attach the same importance to the fact that we continue counting on the presence of US companies, which demonstrates the coherent stance in favor of trade with Cuba adopted by a significant part of this nation’s business community. We will keep offering our full support to them.
We have organized this event with the intention that all participants find an appropriate forum to learn and talk about trade and investments in Cuba. For such purpose, we have prepared a varied program of activities and I would like to share part of that program with you in advance, although you will find this information in the promotional materials and on the website of the Havana International Trade Fair.
In the morning of Tuesday, November 5th, at the Don Cuba Restaurant, there will be a presentation on the major Cuban exports. There you will have the chance to see a wide variety of products and services from all the provinces of our country. In the afternoon of that same day, there will be another presentation on the Foreign Trade One-Stop Shop System, in the Executive Room of Expocuba’s Central Pavilion.
On November 6th and 7th, we will hold the IV Investment Forum, including the launch of the new Portfolio of Foreign Investment Opportunities and a presentation on the Development and Business Program of the Mariel Special Development Zone, as well as bilateral meetings between investors and their Cuban counterparts. As customary, these meetings are arranged through the digital platform created for such purpose, although this year the platform includes new features. In the framework of this Forum, there will also be presentations on foreign investment with the participation of Mexican companies established in Cuba and European authorities.
As it happens annually in the context of the Fair, we will have national day celebrations, which this time have been organized by about twenty countries in their respective pavilions. In addition to providing information, these pavilions contribute to identifying potential projects and common work objectives for the future.
In tandem with these activities, we will have other side events, business forums, and product launches, among many other activities, which will also include performances of various manifestations of Cuban culture.
As you can see, in this Thirty Seventh Edition of FIHAV, you will find multiple and interesting business opportunities with Cuban and foreign companies; at the same time, you will enjoy the hospitality that characterizes the organizers of this event, and Cuban people in general.
We acknowledge and thank the effort you have all made to participate and exhibit your products and we wish you success on the coming days.
With regards to our own work, I can assure you that as usual we will put our greatest efforts and dedication at your service, in order to facilitate your exchanges and assist you in anything you may need.
We want to convey to the Cuban business community our confidence and conviction that they will be excellent hosts and professional interlocutors, and we invite them to make the most of these working days in order to achieve the goals they have set themselves.
Before wrapping up, we extend our warm greetings to the official delegations that have graciously joined us in this edition of the Havana Fair; several of these delegations are headed by ministers, deputy ministers or secretaries-general, governors, and other heads of government agencies, from Venezuela, Belarus, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Nicaragua, Jamaica, the Czech Republic, Curacao, Russia, Angola, Mexico, Spain, Ireland, and the Eurasian Economic Commission.
We also welcome the associations, chambers of commerce, and trade and investment promotion entities that are visiting us. We have also been joined by the Executive Director of the Free Trade Zones Association of the Americas. Be welcome.
I also want to acknowledge the intensive work carried out by the Cuban and foreign exhibitors and staff who have participated in the organization of this Fair. In addition, I want to thank the national and foreign print media that have been reporting on the preparations for this event and will continue reporting on its activities during the week.
I wish success to all the participants; we will certainly meet during these days in the activities that have been scheduled.
On behalf of the Organizing Committee, I welcome you all and declare the Thirty Seventh Edition of the Havana International Trade Fair, FIHAV 2019, officially opened.
Thank you very much.