Cuba and Indonesia commit to mutually increase business

Fraternity and mutual support have always been premises in the dialogue and exchange between Cuba and Indonesia, two sister nations that celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations this January.

One of the most important bets for the future is the expansion of economic-commercial ties, according to Mr. N. Purniawan, deputy director for Latin America and the Caribbean, of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who visited the island in 2019.

The official explained to Businesses in Cuba that in November two delegations from his country came to Havana, one from the Foreign Ministry and another from the Chamber of Commerce, which held meetings with their Cuban counterparts and with representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and the Foreign Investment, exploring new commercial possibilities.

Cuba needs investors, so we are here looking for business opportunities, and I think that from this visit there will be an increase, I am optimistic, said Purniawan, when interviewed during the last International Fair of Havana.

We are here to show our products, our culture, he added.

Among the exportable goods of his country he mentioned: palm oil, footwear, textiles, rubber, cocoa, coffee, seafood, especially shrimp, and furniture.

He said that Cuban tobacco is very famous in Indonesia and its music is quite familiar, there is also a mutual desire to expand trade.

For his part, the second secretary and business manager of the Indonesian Embassy, ??Mr. Sahid Nurkarim, said that one of the topics to be discussed in the current talks is the achievement of direct trade, and not through other countries.

The trend in exchange between the two island nations is growing, he said.

Diplomatic relations were formalized on January 22, 1959, whereby the Asian nation became the first to establish links with the revolutionary Government.

Since then, a history of mutual collaboration, support and correspondence - with greater emphasis on the political, sports and socio-cultural fields - and a commitment to reciprocal protection of investments, characterize the links.

Visits, exchange missions and signing of agreements in the areas of health, culture, sport and education have been carried out.

There is a bilateral will to strengthen relations in biotechnology, pharmaceutical industry, energy and direct foreign trade, among other sectors.

Cuba provided humanitarian aid to Indonesia when it was affected by a tsunami in Aceh province in 2004, and by an earthquake in the city of Yogyakarta in 2006.

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Departing Cuban embassy official found curiosity, not confrontation, in U.S.

As he spoke at college campuses and to state legislators and city councils over the past four years, Miguel Fraga found curiosity, not confrontation, about his homeland, Cuba.

“The reception has been better than I expected,” he told People’s World in an exclusive interview on the eve of his departure back to a senior Foreign Ministry post in the Cuban capital of Havana.

Instead, Fraga’s audiences “wanted to know more” about actual conditions in Cuba. And he strove to counter their preconceptions gained from old movies, U.S. TV sitcoms and hostile U.S. government statements and media coverage of the socialist republic and the 1959 Cuban revolution.

Attendees also wanted to know how Cuba and the U.S. could improve relations, a question Fraga easily answered. And that’s where a little-known, but important, joint Cuban-U.S. medical research project on testing a Cuban-invented vaccine to combat lung  cancer, undertaken at the nationally known Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, comes in – along with other examples.

Fraga has spent much of his time in the U.S. on that task of touring the country, explaining Cuba, its culture, its politics and its prospects. He wound up his three-year assignment as the First Secretary – the embassy’s #2 job –  of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., in December.  His tenure in that post, in the century-old embassy building itself high on D.C.’s Meridian Hill, began after the two nations re-established full diplomatic relations in 2016.

For the year before that, Fraga was First Secretary of the “Cuban Interests Section” in Washington, the name for diplomatic outposts two nations maintain when they don’t have formal diplomatic relations. His prior career also includes a stint in the Cuban Embassy in Canada.

Ordinarily, in any nation’s diplomatic corps, such presentations and talks would be left to consular staffers and visiting experts, not an embassy’s #2. But a combination of U.S. restrictions and expulsions of Cuban lower-level diplomats – which left the embassy short-staffed — and Trump administration-ordered closure of Cuban consulates in the U.S. put Fraga on the road for much of his tenure.

As a result, Fraga addressed groups at 46 college campuses, including three Penn State campuses, and convinced state and local lawmakers to pass resolutions urging the U.S. government to end its 58-year blockade of Cuba. He also urges listeners to come to Cuba themselves to see revolution’s results.

“We’ve got resolutions from Alabama, Helena, Montana, Sacramento, Richmond and Oakland, California, Hartford, Connecticut, Detroit, Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul and both houses of the California legislature, along with the Michigan Senate. We’re working on Chicago and Washington, D.C.,” he added. Helena, Hartford and St. Paul, Minnesota., are state capitals.

Possibilities for U.S.-Cuban trade are a big selling point in those resolutions, Fraga said. But so are instances of cooperation between the two countries. That includes fighting terrorism, cooperating against human trafficking in the Americas and fighting the Ebola virus in Africa. There, the U.S. built and funded clinics and Cuba sent the doctors.

That’s also where collaboration between Cuba and Roswell Park shines forth.

Cuba’s medical system is known for the breadth of its care, its state-paid medical training, its high doctor-to-patient ratios, its excellent health outcomes – in many areas, equal to or better than in the U.S. – and its advanced medical research.

Ironically, that advanced research is a result of the blockade, which the U.S. calls an embargo. The blockade forced Cuba to develop its own biotechnology and medical research facilities, which the Cuban government has generously funded ever since, Fraga notes. The research has produced a range of pioneering results, according to a peer-reviewed April 2018 article in Medicc Review.

So with the encouragement of New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the famed institute teamed up in April 2015 with Cuba’s Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM) to test a Cuban-developed anti-lung cancer vaccine in the U.S. Trade in scientific and medical goods and processes is an exception to the long-standing blockade, which the U.S. calls an embargo, of Cuban goods and services.

The Cuban center had field-tested the vaccine, Cimavax, there. It’s reduced antibody responses in lung cancer patients and thus reduced future tumor growth. But a clinical trial in the U.S., with authorization and follow-up judgement by the federal Food and Drug Administration of whether it could be produced and marketed here, is the world “gold standard” for vaccines.

The point of the Roswell Park project was to get testing underway and, from its results, craft the required new drug investigation application for FDA to review, Roswell Park’s director, Dr. Candace Johnson, told medical journals then.

The joint Cuban-Roswell Park clinical trial, involving hundreds of patients, from Oct. 2016-Nov. 2017, showed Cimavax succeeded in quelling lung cancer tumors. There are still hurdles to overcome, the Medicc article reported: U.S. “foreign assets control” rules, restricting whether Cuban-made medicines and vaccines can be widely used in the U.S. beyond clinical trials.

“Joint efforts by CIM and RPCI bring new hope to lung cancer patients by offering them the results of efforts to obtain new and more effective therapies. The… joint work paves the way for other academic institutions and companies to engage in bilateral collaboration to develop new therapies, also needed to limit or eliminate toxicity seen with other cancer treatments.” Such therapies “may also lead to more cost-effective care for cancer patients and for those suffering other life-threatening diseases,” Medicc’s authors, all clinical medicine physicians, reported.

Which is why Fraga touts the CIM-Roswell Park cooperation as an example of what could happen, to both nations’ benefit, if the blockade ends. U.S. patients would benefit from advanced Cuban-developed vaccines. Cuba would get more U.S. investment in biomedical research and, after approval, marketing.

Cuba could also benefit, Fraga admits, by gaining a new, big and closer market for all of its goods, not just vaccines, and by cutting the cost of its imports. It lost 80% of its trade when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and must expensively import food from non-U.S. sources, for example.

There are two cautions, however. One is the political climate in the U.S. GOP President Donald Trump and the few U.S. lawmakers who pay attention to U.S.-Cuban relations – a low priority on Capitol Hill – side with the aging anti-Castro anti-Revolution Cuban refugees, most of whom reside and vote as a bloc in South Florida.

Even the doctors in Medicc recognized Trump’s anti-Cuba stand could cause problems.

“Uncertainties plague the future of U.S.–Cuba collaboration in cancer research under the change in U.S. administration,” they laconically wrote. “While under the Obama administration, the two countries were able to advance in establishing scientific links, it is uncertain whether the Trump administration will go along the same lines or will erect barriers to those ties,” their journal article said.

The other caution is Cubans’ rightful refusal to return to the state of relations that existed before Fidel Castro threw out corrupt President Fulgencio Batista and his corporate cronies 60 years ago, ending decades of U.S. domination.

“The majority of the Cuban people want respectful relations, not to be a colony like we were before 1959,” Fraga says.

As for himself, Fraga, the lawyer son of a farm worker and a housewife who never went to college – he went for free under Cuba’s education system – calls serving in the U.S. “a great personal and professional experience.”

“I really believe the majority” in the U.S. “want better relations. We can do more and more and more together – and it’s good for both sides and provides opportunities for both sides,” he concludes.

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Vietnam, Cuba hold fifth political consultation

Vietnam’s Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son conducted the fifth political consultation with Cuba’s First Deputy Foreign Minister Marcelino Medina González as part of his official visit to Cuba on September 19-21.

During his stay in Cuba, Son met with Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla and Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz.

At the meetings, the two sides expressed their pleasure at the growing traditional friendship and comprehensive cooperation between Vietnam and Cuba in all fields such as politics, economy-trade, security-defence, agriculture, construction, education, health care, biotechnology, transportation, and sports.

Vietnam and Cuba have maintained the exchange of high-level delegations, especially after the historic visit to Cuba by Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in March 2018 and the visit to Vietnam by President of the State Council and Council of Ministers of Cuba Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez in November 2018.

The bilateral economic, trade and investment relations continue growing with two-way trade increasing 25 percent year-on-year to reach 335.8 million USD in 2018.

The Vietnam-Cuba intergovernmental committee organized the 37th session in Hanoi on September 10-12, 2019 with good outcomes, contributing to promoting the bilateral cooperation in numerous fields.

Vietnam and Cuba have also maintained close coordination and mutual support at international organisations and multilateral forums, especially at the United Nations.

The two countries agreed to strengthen their special traditional relations as well as reinforce ties between the two foreign ministries, particularly in arranging and preparing for high-level visits, organising political, economic, cultural and friendship activities, and promoting people-to-people exchanges in 2020 in celebration of the 60th founding anniversary of diplomatic ties.

They pledged to continue implementing effectively cooperation mechanisms such as the theoretical workshop between the two communist parties, the intergovernmental committee, political consultations between the foreign ministries, dialogues between the defence ministries, and the Vietnam-Cuba business council.

The two foreign ministries affirmed that they will coordinate with relevant ministries and departments to enhance economic, trade and investment cooperation, as well as facilitate investment in the fields of their strengths such as construction material, consumer goods, tourism-hotel, biotechnology, and pharmaceuticals in order to bring two-way trade to 500 million USD by 2022.

They also discussed regional and international issues of mutual concerns, including the situation in the East Sea.

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Japanese, South Korean FMs to Discuss Trade Dispute

Foreign Ministers of South Korea and Japan will meet this Thursday in Bangkok to negotiate a solution to the trade confrontation between the two countries.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and his Japanese counterpart Taro Kono are in Bangkok to participate in the Regional Forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The diplomats will take advantage of the meeting to hold the first meeting between the two since the Japanese government banned the export to South Korea of materials for high-tech equipment.

The bilateral talks will be held one day before the Japanese government approves a law amendment to remove Seoul from the so-called white list of trusted trading partners.

At the bilateral meeting, Kang will urge Kono to withdraw what the South Korean Executive has described as unfair and unilateral measures, as well as the cancellation of South Korea's exclusion from the group of countries with minimal restrictions.

Tokyo and Seoul are in the midst of an unprecedented lawsuit due to the Japanese ban on selling to South Koreans raw materials for the production of high-tech equipment on the pretext that they are sent to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to manufacture weapons.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping celebrates 66th birthday with cake and Russian ice cream from Putin

Chinese President Xi Jinping celebrated his 66th birthday on Saturday (June 15) with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who Xi considers a close friend and who gave Xi ice cream as a present, Chinese state media reported.

The discussion of senior leaders' private lives is extremely rare in China, and the exact birth dates of most of them are not revealed publicly, as they are considered a state secret.

State television showed pictures of Xi and Putin holding up champagne glasses to toast Xi's birthday at the hotel he is staying at in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, where they are both attending a regional summit.

While Putin gave Xi Russian ice cream - the flavour was not mentioned - Xi gave Putin back some Chinese tea, the report said.

Xi thanked Putin and said that in China Putin was extremely popular, it added.

Pictures on Chinese state television's website showed the two men inspecting a white cake decorated with red and blue confectionery flowers with the words written on it, in somewhat shaky red-coloured Chinese characters, "good fortune double six".

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Cuba First vice president visits to Ethiopia

A deligation led by Cuba’s First Vice President Salvador Valdes Mesa on Wednesday visits Ethiopia. The First Vice President discusses bilateral issues with President Sahle-Work Zewde and Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen of Ethiopia.

The discussion involves strengthening the long-standing ties between the two nations and collaborations on sugar sector development and health sector, among others. Saying Cuba is a special friend of Ethiopia, President Sahle-Work emphasized the priority of focusing on activities that would help to expand the longstanding and historical relations.

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Mesa on his part expressed the utmost interest of his country to expedite the relationship between Ethiopia and Cuba, according to office of the President. About 28 Cuban collaborators are currently working in Ethiopia, 22 of them in health institutions and another six in the educational system, as part of Cuba’s professional assistance to African nations.

Around 5,000 Ethiopians who studied in Cuba at different educational levels, are contributing to the economic and social development of their country, thank the Cuban people and State that welcomed them as their children, and they are the backbone of solidarity with Cuba in Ethiopia.

The deligation led by the First Vice President is also expected to meet African Union offcials in Addis Ababa and extending the vist to South Africa to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Cyril Ramaphosa as President of South Africa, and the trip to the Kingdom of Eswatini, former Swaziland.



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Kansas Representative Exploring Ways to Trade with Cuba

A U.S. representative is seeking ways to open markets with Cuba. Roger Marshall, a Republican from Kansas, spoke with Cuba’s President earlier this week. The two discussed trade opportunities between Cuba and the U.S., a priority over the kansaslast few years for U.S. agriculture and more-so given the current trade climate.

Marshall says the U.S. “can and should be Cuba’s number one supplier of commodities like sorghum, soy, wheat, and corn.” Currently, Cuba imports roughly 80 percent of its food from Europe, Latin America and Asia. Marshall says Cuba represent a “significant opportunity” that the U.S. is missing because of “outdated and unnecessary restrictions, at a time when farm country needs new markets the most.”

Marshall supports eliminating outdated restrictions between the U.S. and Cuba, and cosponsored the Cuba Trade Act, Americans Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act, and the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act.

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Cuba-Spain Business Committee Meets in Havana

The Cuba-Spain Business Committee meets from today to tomorrow at the National Hotel in Havana, according to the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba

As part of the program, the presentation of sectoral priorities for the economic and social development of the Cuban economy and the legal framework for Foreign Investment in Cuba by executives of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment is foreseen.

Likewise, the program includes the signing of the Work Program for the period 2018-2019, the holding of business meetings, as well as a visit, scheduled for Friday, to the western Mariel Special Development Zone.

The delegation of the Iberian country is chaired by the Secretary of State for Trade of Spain, Marisa Poncela, and the president of the Spanish section of the bilateral committee, Jaime García-Legaz.

It also includes representatives of more than 70 companies from the energy, tourism, and construction sectors, basically.

On the Cuban side, the event is chaired by the Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca and the head of the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba, Orlando Hernández.

The Cuba-Spain Business Committee is organized under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment of Cuba and the Chamber of Commerce of Spain and in collaboration with the commercial offices of both countries.

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