[Marxism] Cuban trade with Chinese characteristics

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Mon Nov 8 08:28:11 MST 2004

Sep 11, 2004
Cuban trade with Chinese characteristics
Inter Press Service
By Patricia Grogg

HAVANA - The Cuban government is attempting to strengthen
and expand trade with China, the country's third-largest
trading partner after Venezuela and Spain, while preserving
the distance between its own brand of socialism and the
giant Asian country's "market socialism".

Havana's strategy is not only aimed at boosting cooperation
and trade flows, which in 2003 totaled US$357 million, but
at attracting greater investment from China as well.

Cuba's Ministry of Foreign Investment and Cooperation will
present 41 proposals for joint ventures at the eighth China
International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT), one of
the biggest such events in Asia which ends this weekend in
the port city of Xiamen.

According to the organizers, the fair, sponsored by China's
Trade Ministry and the Xiamen city government, is aimed at
promoting cooperation and trade between China and the rest
of the world. The host city is one of China's leading
special economic zones, and is one of the main
international business areas in Asia.

Cuba is exhibiting a varied sample of its main export
products in the fair, and representatives of more than 30
state enterprises are taking advantage of the occasion to
seek out new business opportunities, sources at the
Ministry of Foreign Trade told Inter Press Service.

Cuba's proposals for investment opportunities for China in
this Caribbean island nation of 11.2 million are in areas
like the fishing industry, footwear and garments, wood and
metal furniture, medical equipment and sugarcane

Some of the proposed projects are targeting medium-sized
businesses, but others require large amounts of capital,
the director of the Investment Promotion Center, Anaiza
Rodriguez, said in an interview with Cuba's weekly business
magazine, Negocios. Rodriguez said that already 10 joint
ventures are in operation, six in Cuba and four in China,
as well as three "cooperative production contracts".

The four joint ventures in China are in the pharmaceutical
industry, high-tech medical equipment, genetic engineering
and biotechnology, including a company dedicated to the
joint development, production and marketing of products for
the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases. The
Biotech Pharmaceutical Ltd Corp is currently building a
modern production plant in the Beijing Development Zone,
one of China's most important.

Although Cuba's trade with China exceeded $600 million in
1990, it had declined to $268 million by 1995, largely due
to the drop in this Caribbean nation's sugar production. 
Up to 1990, Beijing was buying more than a million tons of
sugar a year from Havana.

In the past few years, China's imports from Cuba have
expanded to include nickel, biotechnology products, fresh
citrus fruits, processed citrus products, steel, coal and

Yang Shidi, economic and trade adviser in the Chinese
Embassy in Havana, told the Negocios magazine in Cuba that
bilateral trade amounted to $254 million in the first half
of the year, representing a 28% rise on the same period
last year.

In addition, trade between the two countries is more
balanced than in the past, with China exporting $139
million worth of goods to Cuba and importing $115 million.
Of the total trade balance in 2003, Chinese exports to Cuba
stood at $236 million and Cuba's exports to China at $121
million, said Shidi, who added that Cuba is one of his
country's most important trading partners in Latin America.

The products that China imports from Cuba include tobacco,
biorat (a biological rat poison), interferon (a drug that
stimulates the immune system), high-tech medical equipment,
vaccines and seafood.

Among Cuba's most significant imports from China were a
shipment of more than a million TV sets, the machinery for
manufacturing bicycles, and telephone terminals to upgrade
Cuba's telecommunications system.

Since the late 1980s, China has revived cooperation with
Cuba by granting soft government loans and donations,
mainly for education and agriculture.

In 2003, China's government gave Cuba a $9 million
development loan, and it recently added the island to its
list of official tourism destinations. China could become
an important source of visitors for Cuba's growing tourism
industry. The World Tourism Organization reports that 17
million Chinese tourists travelled abroad last year.

Cuba and China established diplomatic ties on September 28,
1960, but bilateral relations have been chilly at times,
depending on each nation's position within the former
socialist bloc.

Analysts said the 2001 visit to Havana by then Chinese
president Jiang Zemin and Cuban President Fidel Castro's
2003 trip to Beijing confirmed that ties are now based on a
footing of mutually advantageous trade interests and shared
political values.

But while China's economic model is an important reference
point for Cuba, local authorities underline that Cuban
socialism must follow its own route, based on the
preponderant role of socialist state enterprises and the
tendency towards centralization.

(Inter Press Service)

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