France to deepen economic relations with Cuba

8 February 2016

Issue number 858

Following a two-day state visit to France – the first ever by a Cuban President – President Castro has said that he believes that Cuba will now be able to receive new credits for investment and trade.

In remarks to the Cuban media and at a state dinner, he suggested that the country’s successful negotiations with debtor nations in the Paris Club’s ad hoc working group on Cuba in December 2015 (Cuba Briefing December 14, 2015) meant that Cuba can now obtain bilateral support internationally, as evidenced by agreements reached with France.

Although no detail has yet been provided, a number of co-operation agreements were signed during his February 1-2 visit to Paris. These are expected to lead to France offering Cuba new credits, a basis being established for restructuring Cuban debt into investments, French development co-operation being extended to Cuba, and French financing being provided for tourism development and railway infrastructure projects.

Speaking in Paris before his departure for Havana, President Castro said that by successfully concluding negotiations with the country’s international creditors, Cuba had taken a step that had freed it from the restrictions previous debt defaults had placed on its ability to acquire new credits for investment and international trade. He also said that the agreement would enable Cuba to take advantage of the economic opening that the country’s new investment law had created.

The visit to Paris followed from one made by President Hollande to Havana last May (Cuba Briefing May 18, 2015) and effectively cements something close to a special relationship with France in Europe.

In an address at the Elysee Palace at a state dinner held in honour of President Castro, President Hollande noted: “We are well aware of our differences, but what unites us is stronger. We don’t always have the same views on all issues, especially on human rights, but our friendship allows us to talk about them freely and that is essential. Cuba is respected and heard across Latin America.”

Speaking about the outcome of the negotiations with the Paris Club, the French President said that France expected this to bring benefits to Cuba through enabling renewed access to international and French finance. He noted that it meant that the French Development Agency and French companies could now provide support for Cuba. He suggested that France would transform Cuba’s debt into funds to be reinvested in development initiatives and to accelerate French investment projects in Cuba.

President Hollande said that the French Development Agency is currently working on identifying potential projects which will begin to be implemented this year. He also said that France would re-launch a cultural co-operation campaign with Cuba, dedicating a month to French culture in Cuba.

Speaking about the US embargo, President Hollande made clear that France wanted “this blockade” to be eliminated “so that Cuba can fully occupy its place on the global stage… This is the desire of both the country and the international community,” he said.

The French President also observed in his remarks that Cuba had played a vital role in the Colombian peace process, saying that a solution would not have been found without its mediation. President Hollande said that the close ties that Cuba maintains with Venezuela were a trump card “to ensure that dialogue prevails in this country and between this country and its neighbours”.

 

This is an extract from the Caribbean Council’s weekly Cuba Briefing, a leading publication that provides detailed and accurate news on economic, social and political developments inside Cuba to corporate interests with a long term economic relationship with the island.

The publication is available internationally on a subscription-only basis for those in business, government and the academic world who wish to understand on a weekly basis developments relating to Cuba.

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