In a historic chapter of the Australia-Cuba bilateral relationship, Special Envoy for Trade Andrew Robb will lead Australia’s first ever business mission to Cuba this week.
The delegation, representing broad business interests, will meet Cuban Government representatives and local business people for briefings and networking opportunities.
Mr Robb said the recent strengthening of relations between the US and Cuba, and the Cuban Government’s implementation of economic reforms, has generated increasing Australian interest in Cuba as a potential trade partner.
Cuba may soon become an attractive place to visit and for investment.
In a sign of improved relations, US President Barack Obama will next month become the first sitting US president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge.
“Deepening economic ties through increased trade and investment helps to promote peace and stability in regions, and increasingly, several countries are looking at Cuba in order to leverage new opportunities to mutual benefit,” Mr Robb said.
“In this regard Australia is an early mover when it comes to engaging new markets in which to do business.”
The recently-formed Australia-Cuba Business Council would help interested Australian companies gain a foothold in the Cuban market and create commercial relationships, he said.
“Cuba has begun a reform process that has seen positive changes in its foreign investment laws, and a recent debt agreement by the Paris Club Group of Creditors will make it easier for Cuba to gain access to international finance.”
Australia’s trade with Cuba is modest but there is potential in sectors such as mining and energy, mining equipment, technology and services (METS), food and agriculture, tourism, medical services and equipment.
“Cuba offers solid opportunities for Australian firms with the right capability, to supply what the Cuban economy needs,” Mr Robb said.
The business mission was coordinated with the help of the Embassy of Cuba in Canberra.
Mr Robb thanked Cuba’s Ambassador to Australia, Jose Galego Montano, who played a critical role in facilitating the visit to Cuba.
During his visit, Mr Robb will address the Australia-Cuba Business Conference, a roundtable lunch on mining and energy in Cuba and a reception for Cuban officials and business people.