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Japanese firms keen to make inroads into Cuba

Japanese firms keen to make inroads into Cuba
AUG 14, 2015

HAVANA – Japanese companies are keen to make inroads into Cuba after the
country last month fully restored diplomatic relations with the United
States after more than five decades of enmity, informed sources say.

Cuba is just 150 kilometers from the United States. In addition, demand
for infrastructure development is believed to be strong as many existing
facilities, such as ports, are dilapidated.

The Japanese government is ready to help domestic firms win business in
Cuba by using official development assistance, according to the sources.

The United States is unlikely to lift all of its sanctions on Cuba until
President Raul Castro leaves office in 2018, according to a U.S.
research firm. To Japanese firms, the key is whether they can get the
jump on U.S. rivals.

Cuba “is in the midst of a bubble,” a source says. The number of
Japanese businesspeople who visit Cuba for market research has shot up
four- to five-fold year on year since last December, when the United
States announced its plan to normalize its relations with Cuba.

A variety of Japanese businesses have sent officials, such as
automakers, trading houses and construction companies.

“Some companies have already started preparations to set up
representative offices,” a Japanese company official says.

The Japanese government hopes to strategically use grant aid and other
assistance programs, mainly in the areas of medicine and agriculture,
where Cuban demand is believed to be strong, to promote the use of
products supplied by Japanese firms, according to government sources.

Cuba also has expectations for Japan. The Caribbean country is trying to
diversify its trade partners as it took a devastating blow from the 1959
breakup of its relations with the United States, which Cuba’s economy
had heavily relied on, according to a local academic expert.

But no sign can be seen that Cuba will take drastic economic reforms
anytime soon after the diplomatic normalization with the United States.
Companies newly starting business in Cuba need to work out medium- to
long-term plans extending to the period after the current president
leaves, sources say.

After the full termination of the U.S. sanctions, U.S. companies are
likely to rush into Cuba. Anticipating this, European companies are
stepping up preparations by holding investment seminars and through
other means.

Seeds are being sown in Cuba, a diplomatic source says, adding that
future success in the Cuban market will depend on the results of such

Source: Japanese firms keen to make inroads into Cuba | The Japan Times

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