(Reuters) – Cuba’s economy needs foreign capital to diversify, the island’s foreign trade minister said on Thursday, as he made an unusually open invitation to North and South American companies to talk to the Communist government about doing business there.
Business interest in Cuba has boomed since the historic announcement on Dec. 17, when U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro said they would restore diplomatic relations and seek to end more than five decades of hostility.
“We recognize the importance of international insertion into our economy to diversify our foreign trade, increase access to foreign financing and increasing the participation of foreign capital in the Cuban economy,” Rodrigo Malmierca told a meeting of business leaders from across the Americas who met in Panama on Thursday.
Cuba is still cut off from U.S. investment by a comprehensive trade embargo. Obama, a Democrat, has asked the Republican-controlled Congress to work toward dismantling the embargo, which had been a pillar of foreign policy for nine previous presidents.
Malmierca spoke a day ahead of the Summit of the Americas bringing together leaders of the region, including Obama and Castro, who will meet in person for the first time since a brief handshake at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December 2013.
Areas such as agriculture, infrastructure, sugar, nickel mining, building renovation and real estate development are considered ripe for investment.