Ploumen: 77 companies and organisations joining trade mission to Cuba

Foreign trade and development cooperation minister Lilianne Ploumen leaves tomorrow for Cuba, where she will head a trade delegation. She will be accompanied by 77 companies and organisations from various sectors, such as Philips, Unilever and Heineken, the Feyenoord football club, the World Wide Fund for Nature and representatives of The Hague Philharmonic. The delegation will also include businesses from the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom such as the St Maarten Ports Authority, Curaçao Airport and representatives of the Aruba free trade zone.

Ms Ploumen believes it is important for the Netherlands to strengthen its ties with Cuba. ‘Cuba’s current reforms and its closer relations with the United States have cleared the way for further normalising relations between our two countries. The Netherlands has traditionally been a strong economic partner. Teaming up with Cuba instead of isolating it will improve security, prosperity and stability in the region. This is also in the interests of the Caribbean parts of our Kingdom.’

Ms Ploumen’s visit to Cuba will mainly focus on trade, human rights, sport and culture. On Monday 11 January her activities will include a visit to the Mariel Special Economic Development Zone near Havana, where she will meet with journalists, young people and businesswomen, and will open the baseball match between Cuba and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On Tuesday 12 January the minister will visit the Havana Cruise Terminal and a street football project run by Feyenoord, the latter together with former player and football analyst Pierre van Hooijdonk. She will also talk with Mariela Castro, director of the National Centre for Sex Education. Afterwards, the minister will meet members of the Cuban government.

The Netherlands is currently Cuba's second biggest European trade partner, with exports totalling €107 million and imports totalling €120 million. In 2014 Cuba and the Netherlands signed an agreement to work together on tourism, logistics, water/maritime, agriculture/food, health/biotechnology and sustainable energy. These agreements will be further elaborated during the trade mission.

‘I hope that during our visit, the companies and organisations from the Kingdom of the Netherlands will be able to strengthen and expand their networks and discover opportunities for cooperation,’ Ms Ploumen said. ‘They not only have high-value products and knowledge to offer, but also practise corporate social responsibility. In this area, there is a great deal still to be achieved in Cuba.’ During her talks with the national government and civil society, the minister will discuss the national human rights situation in Cuba and remind participating companies of their responsibility to uphold human rights in all their business activities. In particular, there are still problems around freedom of expression and the oppression of critics of the Cuban government. ‘The Netherlands has always kept the human rights dialogue with Cuba open and supported human rights organisations working there. In recent years encouraging steps have been taken towards creating greater freedom for Cubans, but there is still a long way to go. We will continue to press for efforts in that direction, including on this mission.’