[Marxism] A few notes after wanding around at the Havana trade fair yesterday

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Nov 7 05:44:37 MST 2007


A FEW NOTES AFTER WANDERING AROUND THE TRADE FAIR YESTERDAY
by Walter Lippmann

Yesterday I took a look around the International Trade Fair. There
seemed fewer companies from the United States present than I've seen
in past years. The ones I spoke to said they were all doing business
here, both in sales of agricultural commodities, and the shipping
companies which are licensed to transport the items which Cuba
purchases. There were big pavilions from Brazil and an entire one
featuring Turkish commodities. Lots of foreign industrial technology
and a large selection of South Korean products, including the Hyundai
automobile, one which is already found here in Cuba and is used by
car rental agencies. One interesting man I chatted with for a few
moments was John Park Wright IV, a man who traces his family's
history here to Cuba going back to 1860. He has an agricultural
license and brings cattle for sale, and hopes to regain business.
Despite diplomatic problems, there's a pavilion from the Czech
Republic. Vietnam and China also are quite active doing business
with the island as well. 

The New York Times reporter James McKinley was interviewing
him and others. Mary Murray the NBC Bureau Chief was at the fair
with a full camera crew interviewing participants as well. Lots of
Cuban enterprises were present, looking for increased possibilities
for exports as Cuba increasingly engages itself in the international
economy. Those U.S. firms who were present are all anxious to do lots
more business with Cuba. The problem they face is the obstructions
which Washington imposes on U.S. firms, and Washington's refusal to
permit Cuba to sell its many commodities and services within the 
United States, which would enable Cuba to purchase even more. 

I have to admit that as I walked out of there yesterday afternoon,
my mood was one of discouragement over the prospects of expanded
business possibilities with the United States. It seemed as if the
blockade would never, ever end. Of course, it's not likely that it
would ever simple END, in one, fell swoop. It will probably come
to an end in dribs and drabs, steps forward and steps backward,
and so on. That's why it's so urgent and important that each and
every positive step, even ones made for less than the best reasons,
like today's editorial in the MIAMI HERALD, be made the most of by
everyone who wants to see normalized relations between these two
countries. Except for Cubans themselves who live in the U.S., the
relatively small number of U.S. firms who are already engaging in
business here, and the much smaller number of activists who are in
favor of the Cuban Revolution politically, Cuba isn't much of an
issue to most people in the United States. I'm not sure what it's
going to take to turn that situation around. But a breakthrough is
necessary. 

Cuba itself, by its specific population and economic production is
a small factor on the international arena. But Cuba's example as
a country which has succeeded in obtaining and maintaining its
national independence through a revolutionary process, that, most
of all, is what Washington so bitterly resents about this little
country. I can't imagine Washington would just up and say that it
was wrong and sorry for all the damage it has caused to this place
through all these years. In the Sixties, Washington succeeded in
isolating Cuba diplomatically. Today it's Washington which is now
isolated when it comes to Cuba, as the recent UN vote demonstrated.

So whether it's letters to the editor, travel challenges, religious
licenses, expanded business prospects, and or a change in policy
at the national level in the United States, humanitarian aid such
as would be needed now in light of the flooding in Eastern Cuba,
or whatever it's going to take, in the words of the song: someday, 
somehow, somewhere something's gotta give..


Walter Lippmann
Havana, Cuba
==================================================================

GRANMA INTERNATIONAL
Havana.  November 6, 2007

More than 1,400 companies at Havana Trade Fair
• Cuban exports rise by 44%

BY HAYDEE LEON MOYA — Granma International staff writer —
PHOTOS: OTMARO RODRIGUEZ

http://www.granma.cu/ingles/2007/noviembre/mar6/45feriai.html

CONSUMER goods, machinery, equipment, technology, raw materials and
various services representing 1,425 companies (428 Cuban and 997
foreign) are occupying the 25 pavilions of the Havana Trade Fair this
week. The 25th edition of the annual event runs from November 5 to 10
at the Expocuba fairgrounds.

More than 1,400 companies at Havana Trade Fair. This year, the
exhibition area covers some 16,108 square meters; exhibitors have
come from 53 countries; and 19 official delegations and
representatives from 36 chambers of commerce are attending, welcomed
at the opening ceremony by Vice President Carlos Lage Dávila and
Panamanian Vice President and Foreign Minister Samuel Lewis Navarro,
who led a sizeable and enthusiastic delegation from his country. It
is the first time Panama has a whole pavilion at this event.

Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade Raúl de la Nuez Ramírez said that as
of September of this year, Cuba’s trade for 2007 totaled 10 billion
convertible pesos, 12% more than in the same period in 2006, with a
44% increase in exports and greater geographic balance in its
transactions.

He noted that Cuba is developing fruitful commercial and financial
relationships with more than 3,000 corporations from 176 nations, and
that Venezuela, China, Canada, Brazil, Spain and Italy are being
reinforced as its main trade partners, with whom Cuba does about 70%
of its foreign transactions.

De la Nuez said that this trade fair has benefited the advance of
Cuba’s foreign trade and the development of new investments and joint
enterprises, not just with Cuba but also among other countries
participating as exhibitors. The minister added that the fair’s
results also show how the economic, commercial and financial blockade
against Cuba maintained by the United States for almost 50 years has
not been able to isolate the country from the international
community, despite having caused it losses of more than $89 billion.

SPAIN, THE BEST-REPRESENTED

Spain is the best-represented country at the fair, with a pavilion
featuring 80 companies. Other countries with national pavilions
include Germany, Brazil, Venezuela, Italy and Turkey.

For its part, Canada, present at this event since its first edition,
has more than 60 companies represented, with a wide-ranging display
of machinery, vehicles, cereals, steel products and others.

This country has an important market in Cuba for buying nickel and
cobalt, tobacco, fish, rum, seafood, copper and other products, and
is currently the largest issuing country for tourists to the island.
It was precisely the latter sector that is weightiest in joint
ventures. In 2006, for example, 600,000 Canadians visited the island.

MORE THAN 100 U.S. COMPANIES

The Havana Trade Fair is also being attended by 213 representatives
of 100 U.S. companies, as well as four agriculture secretaries from
different U.S. states. The U.S. group was led by Nebraska Governor
Dave Heinemann.

STRONG PANAMANIAN PRESENCE LED BY FIRST VICE PRESIDENT

For the first time since the Havana Trade Fair first opened, the
Panama Republic features a broad range of products and technology.
The presence of the country’s first vide president and foreign
minister, Samuel Lewis, representatives of autonomous and
semi-autonomous businesses, such as the Panama Canal Authority, and
an enthusiastic cultural delegation made the Panamanian pavilion
stand out. Together with Spain, Panama was one of two countries
present 25 years ago at the Havana Trade Fair’s first edition.

Those attending this year’s event consider the possibilities for
Latin American integration offered by Panama’s administration of the
Canal, particularly perspectives for increasingly broader exchange
once the colossal investment has been made to expand that important
inter-oceanic channel.

Panama Canal officials and managers commented to Granma International
about the progress of the expansion underway at this time, which is
expected to be completed in 2014 at a total cost of $5 billion,
financed based on income from the channel’s commercial operations,
which has been under Panamanian administration for the last seven
years.

The investment consists of the construction of a third set of locks,
including a third canal, and the deepening and widening of the
channel, as well as raising the level of Lake Gatun so that larger
ships can pass through.

Engineer Sixta Rodríguez, supervisor of logistic support for the
Panamanian company, said that work is currently at the stage of dry
excavation, which is being carried out by the Constructora Urbana
S.A. Company, and with the participation of about 5,000 Panamanian
workers.

Under Panamanian administration, the Canal has made significant
direct contributions to the state, part of which are being allocated
by the government, for the first time, for projects benefiting
society. This spending includes the construction of the Centenario
Bridge, the second-largest in the country, uniting the capital with
the other provinces; highways, and investments in the education
system and community projects, among others.

Another of this Pavilion’s attractions is the presence of a stand
representing the Colón Free Trade Zone, the largest in the Americas
and the second-largest in the world. It is a re-export zone, with a
strategically privileged location in the region. It is a three-day
journey from Cuba by ship, and two-and-a-half hours by plane.

Representatives from the Panamanian Ministry of Trade and Industry
are also present, as well as from the Panamanian Tourism Institute,
the Ministry of Agricultural Development and the Institute of
Agricultural Marketing, all of them linked to the promotion of
Panamanian exports.

Companies that sell Cuba textiles, foodstuffs, appliances, automotive
supplies and items for the household and small businesses, among
others, are all on exhibit. These companies included Cepormarín, a
distributor of French autos; Calsa, which represents Toyota in Cuba;
Inversión Pucara, which for the first time is representing the Nissan
line of autos, and other export firms for clothing, all types of
printed materials and food and drink.

The first vice president of that Republic emphasized that Panama has
close ties with Cuba, and that their trade has had an important leap,
because as of September, it totaled $48 million, compared to $14
million in 2006.

Proof of that position on the part of the Panamanian government for
boosting bilateral trade relations is the setting up last year of a
commercial office for the first time to specifically attend to
interests in that sphere.

=================================================================

US Company Interested in Cuban Market

Havana, Nov 6 (acn) US entrepreneur Maria de la Fuente, from the
American Marine Services (AMS), expressed its company's interest in
the Cuban market, during her first day at the 25th Havana
International Trade Fair. In statements to acn the American business
woman said that her company has been exporting wheat and soy beans
from New Orleans and Texas to Cuba under a license issued by the US
Treasury. She said the transaction has been positive for both
parties, "since Cuba is a good market for American products."

AMS and other US companies, along US state officials are taking part
at the fair, underway from Monday to Saturday at Havana's Expocuba
exhibition complex, with the attendance of representatives of 53
countries.

A small group of US companies is currently exporting a limited bulk
of foodstuffs to Cuba, in a process that is characterized by hurdles
posed by the over-45-year economic blockade of the island. Due to
such unilateral US measure, Cuba is not allowed either to export its
products to the US market or to be granted any credit line by US
entities or their branch offices abroad. The US blockade, marked by
its extraterritorial character, has cost the island direct losses
amounting to 89 billion dollars. The measure was recently condemned
for 16 years in a row at the UN General Assembly, as 184 out of all
192 UN member nations voted in favor of a Cuban resolution demanding
the lifting of the US unilateral and coercive measure.





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