In 2014, Laurent Fabius was the first chief diplomat of a First World country to come to Cuba after total openness to foreign investment. Securing land for his people, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs opened in Havana a subsidiary of Ubifrancea, governmental office dedicated to explore trade and investment opportunities .
“The representatives of French companies have told me about the expectations that the law on foreign investment that has just been adopted represents”, Fabius said then, in a speech at the residence of the French ambassador in Havana.
He predicted that “other businessmen will join these pioneers in the coming years. They can be supported on the mobilization of our diplomatic and commercial network. “A year later, Paris politicians premiere another milestone. French President François Hollande will be the first head of state of that country to set foot in Havana.
The trip scheduled for May 2015 will probably meet all the rituals: meetings with businessmen and ministers, a reception in style at the Palace of the Revolution and the meeting between Hollande and Raul Castro.
Liberty, equality and Business
The visit of the leader of Élysée Palace is preceded by that of his Secretary of State for Foreign Trade, Matthias Fekl, and a delegation of businessmen from his country. The senior French official not only complied with the formalities, but he also signed a cooperation agreement with the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture.
His visit was crowned with a tour of the port of Mariel and the Special Development Zone surrounding it, the showcase of the new Cuban economy.
Trade relations between France and the Caribbean island are not exactly new. Entrepreneurs from the European nation rank fourth among foreign investors in Cuba.
Like the Brazilians, the French are more interested in coming years than at present. Exclusive to OnCuba, the economic adviser to Paris in Havana, Christian Bernot, said his job is to “provide information to businesses, talk about Cuba and its future.”
His impressions about openness to international entrepreneurship indicate him that the Cuban leadership seeks to attract new partners. “The country’s leaders have announced it. Foreign investment is not only desired, it is indispensable. ”
The mission of the Economic Ministry is to show Cuba, along with Ubifrance, which representative, Maxime Bousso, told OnCuba that the first role will be instructing French companies on export opportunities for products or services needed on the island.
The main item exported from France to Cuba is wheat, which, as Bernoit says, is a prioritized import, because the product “is used to make bread, an important part of the ration card”.
Sanctions in common
Besides being a socialist, Hollande shares with the government of Raul Castro past drawbacks of United States´ policy of financial persecution and extraterritorial sanctions against Havana’s international accounts.
The Paris National Bank (BNP Paribas), which main shareholder is the French state, paid one of the largest fines in history (8 billion dollars) by handling accounts of the island. French President personally intervened with Barack Obama on the issue, receiving an explanation about the independence of the US judiciary.
“The BNP Paribas has canceled all its relations with Cuban entities, constituting an additional obstacle for the economic relations between the two countries, ” according to the report submitted to the UN by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs about the damage caused by the American restrictions and sanctions.
In midst of the first steps taken by the Cuban and American governments for the normalization of relations between the two countries, a powerful new friend will cross the Atlantic with open arms, offering loans, tourists, trade and investment. The president of France will not come to normalize anything, but to remember that his people are such a good friend of Cuba.