Cuba rolls out red carpet for Russian business in push to deepen economic ties

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Picture shows Havana's skyline at dusk

By Dave Sherwood and Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) - Russian and Cuban officials and business leaders on Wednesday announced new perks to entice Russian investors into the Cuban market, the latest sign of fast-growing economic ties between the two long-time political allies.

Boris Titov, head of the Russian delegation of the Cuban-Russian Business Committee, told a forum of Russian entrepreneurs in Havana that Cuba had decisively opened the door to Russian investment.

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"They are giving us preferential treatment," Titov told the packed forum in Havana´s Hotel Nacional. "The path is clear."

Titov said Cuba had offered Russian businesses the right to make use of Cuban land for 30 year-terms, an unusual concession to foreign firms in the communist-run country.

He said Cuba would also exempt Russian companies from import tariffs on certain technology, and would allow Russian firms to repatriate their profits, a benefit in Cuba´s state-dominated economy.

The two countries, on opposite sides of the globe, are also considering ways to fast-track shipping between them, Titov said.

"In Soviet times there was a direct port and maritime link," Titov told the forum. "We are analyzing this possibility with the owners of Cuban ships."

Cuba in recent months has sought to woo investors from Russia and other politically allied nations in a bid to shore up its devastated economy, ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, harsh U.S. sanctions and rampant inefficiencies.

Russia, also reeling from Western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine, has in recent months moved to strengthen economic ties with Cuba and other Latin American countries opposed to what it calls U.S. hegemony.

Ricardo Cabrisas, Cuba´s minister of foreign commerce told reporters on the sidelines of the forum that the economic ties between Russia and Cuba would only grow stronger.

"Nothing and no one can stop it," Cabrisas said.

Bilateral trade between Cuba and Russia reached $450 million in 2022, three times that of 2021, according to Sergei Baldin, Russia´s trade representative in Cuba.

Baldin said 90% of that trade was comprised of sales of petroleum products and soy oil.

(Reporting by Dave Sherwood in Havana; Editing by Alistair Bell)