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France seeks to 'strengthen' trade with Cuba

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (L) shakes hands with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez (R) at the Foreign Ministry in Havana on July 28, 2018.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (L) shakes hands with his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez (R) at the Foreign Ministry in Havana on July 28, 2018. ADALBERTO ROQUE / AFP

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez, met in Havana on Saturday in talks aiming to boost trade.

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The two leaders described as “favourable” the increasing economic ties between their countries, with Le Drian applauding “French companies’ growing presence” in the energy, transportation and construction industries on the island nation.

“We have a very positive, dynamic relationship, and I hope to further develop and strengthen this dynamism,” Le Drian said after meeting with Rodriguez at the Cuban Foreign Ministry.

Le Drian is the first senior French official to visit Cuba since President Emmanuel Macron took office in May 2017, and the first European foreign minister to visit the island country since the election of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in April.

Le Drian met the newly elected leader at the presidential Palace of the Revolution, in a “cordial meeting,” according to an official statement cited on local television.

“We really appreciate the development of bilateral relations” with France, Rodriguez said, adding that this was “a priority” for Cuba. 

The Cuban foreign minister said he recognised “France’s efforts” to boost trade, as his country’s economy still endures the US embargo, in place since 1962.

In 2016, both countries created a fund of 231 million euros, the result of the restructuring and cancellation of a large part of Cuba's debt with France, through which a part of the debt will be converted into investments.

The EU is now the biggest foreign investor in Cuba, and its second largest trading partner, according to the European Commission. The bloc voted to normalise relations with Cuba in 2016, with the measure taking effect the next year, after decades of being blocked over human rights concerns.

(With AFP)

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