Today, in a series of high-level meetings, the UK’s Foreign Secretary called on his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodríguez and other government leaders to discuss the recent social and economic changes in Cuba, human rights, trade and investment, and the fight against global health threats such as the Zika virus.
During the historic visit, the Foreign Secretary will sign a bilateral agreement restructuring Cuba’s debt to the UK and will agree future UK-Cuba cooperation on financial services, energy, culture and education.
Cuba has already reached agreements with Russia, France and Spain on Paris Club debt forgiveness. In December creditor nations agreed to forgive $8.5 billion of debt. Cuba is estimated to have restructured some $50 billion in old debt in the past few years.
France’s restructuring of Cuba’s bilateral debt included a partial conversion to finance infrastructure projects in Cuba.
“France is going further than what was agreed at the Paris Club level. We want to convert arrears that we have so that it is useful for investment,” Hollande told journalists, flanked by Castro.
Half of the outstanding arrears owed to France will be converted into a 212 million euro joint Cuba-French fund to finance projects in the country.
The Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond, said:
Britain and Cuba have outlooks on the world and systems of government that are very different. But as Cuba enters a period of significant social and economic change, I am looking forward to demonstrating to the Cuban government and people that the UK is keen to forge new links across the Atlantic.
That is why Cuba and the UK are set to reach new cooperation agreements on energy, financial services, education and culture, to the benefit of both our nations. As the first British Foreign Secretary to visit Cuba since before the Cuban Revolution in 1959, this is an opportunity to hear for myself what Cuba thinks about its present challenges and where it sees its future.
The Foreign Secretary will also meet representatives from Cuba’s civil society and the British business community in Havana.
According to UK Trade & Investment, the top items exported to Cuba from Britain include dairy produce, boilers, machinery, paper products, pharmaceutical products, drinks and vinegar.