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Mitsubishi Corp says scouting for Cuba infrastructure projects

Mitsubishi Corp says scouting for Cuba infrastructure projects
HAVANA | BY SARAH MARSH

Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp (8058.T) is scouting for business
opportunities in Cuba including infrastructure projects at its Mariel
special development zone, a top executive said on Friday.

Companies from Cuba’s long-term trading partners such as Japan have
stepped up interest in the Communist-ruled island since its detente with
Washington, seeking to win projects before their U.S.
competitors turn up.

“We are trying to find new business opportunities to establish some
infrastructure projects … as well as new trading opportunities,”
Mitsuyuki Takada, Senior Vice of Mitsubishi Corp Global
Strategy, told Reuters on the sidelines of the launch of the firm’s new
Havana office.

Local authorities had shown Takada and other visiting Mitsubishi
executives around the Chinese-style special development zone at Mariel
Bay earlier on Friday.

Cuba launched the zone, centered around a new container terminal,
two-and-a-half years ago in a bid to become a shipment hub and spur new
industrial projects. It offered investors significant tax and
breaks.

Takada said the island had a strategic location at the center of the
Caribbean and close to the United States, and stood to benefit from
increased traffic through the renovated Panama Canal.

“From a logistics point of view, the Caribbean market has a big
potential to grow,” he said.

Mariel is part of a broader government drive in recent years to attract
more investment to Cuba to spur economic growth.

Many foreign companies had previously been put off by its legal regime,
the disadvantages associated with the U.S. economic and
restrictive labor policies.

But Cuba two years ago passed a new law offering investors steep tax
cuts and promising a climate of investment security.

Shuichi Ijiri, who will head Mitsubishi Corp’s new Havana office, said
since “Cuba is changing” the company had decided to return at this time.

Ijiri said his company had a long trading relationship with Cuba,
importing coffee to Japan and other Asian markets.

The Japanese government might help finance Mitsubishi Corp
infrastructure projects in Cuba, Takada said. Japan is among the
countries seeking to convince Cuba to sign investment contracts with its
companies in return for writing off .

Cuba’s First Vice President Miguel Diaz-Canel visited Tokyo last month
for discussions there on debt, investment and trade.

While U.S. President Barack Obama has taken steps to hollow out the
embargo on Cuba with executive orders, the lack of U.S. financing is
hampering U.S.-Cuban business opportunities, experts say.

(Editing by Ed Davies)

Source: Mitsubishi Corp says scouting for Cuba infrastructure projects |
Reuters – www.reuters.com/article/us-cuba-mitsubishi-idUSKCN0ZP02L

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