The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has said that his visit to Cuba, the first by a sitting Japanese Head of Government, has opened a new chapter in the long-standing relationship between the two countries.
The visit primarily focussed on improving economic relations. It included the formal signing of an agreement on debt restructuring, announcements about grants relating to medical technology, and was used by Japan to encourage Cuba to improve its investment climate in ways that might make the island more attractive to Japanese companies. Multilateral issues of concern to Japan, including North Korea, were also raised (background in Cuba Briefing September 19, 2015).
During his visit, the Japanese Prime Minister told a press conference in Havana, “I want to cooperate with Cuba, joining forces as much in the public sector as in the private one. If Japanese companies can feel there is a favourable investment environment, and the US blockade of Cuba ‘softens,’ they will flock into the island… I believe firmly that Japanese companies can, as reliable partners, make a notable contribution to a Cuba that is updating its socio-economic model,” Mr Abe said.
Japan’s Prime Minister also observed that Cuba was of particular interest to his country as it had a highly educated workforce, security and a strategic geographic position, meaning that the country could become a hub between Asia, the Americas and Europe.
Mr Abe also told journalists that there was a “huge demand for infrastructure” and that some of Cuba’s debt to Japan under the debt forgiveness agreement formally signed during his visit had been assigned towards development projects.
He said that Japan’s International Cooperation Agency (JICA) would be establishing a permanent office in Cuba and that he wanted to work together by joining forces “as much in the public sector
as in the private one.”
According to Japanese officials, it was agreed to convene a deputy minister-level meeting of government officials and business leaders in November in Tokyo to discuss specific investment
projects in Cuba. Of the 700 or so foreign companies operating in Cuba at present only 18 are reported to be Japanese.
During the visit Mr Abe announced grants worth about ¥1.3bn (US$12.9m) in medical aid to the country which will be used to purchase hi-tech Japanese medical equipment. It was also agreed to
launch a study to set up a centre in Cuba to train doctors in advanced medical practices.
During his discussions with President Castro, Mr Abe raised the issue of North Korea’s nuclear programme, given Cuba’s relationship with the North Korean leadership and Cuba’s professed
desire to see nuclear disarmament.
According to Japanese…
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.