Japan inks infrastructure accord with Cuba

Following the lead of China, Russia and a number of US companies, Japan is attempting to capitalise on an expected development boom in Cuba.

The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on 23 February to build "high quality infrastructures in construction, transportation and tourism", news agency Prensa Latina reports.

The agreement was signed by Cuba’s Minister of Construction Rene Mesa and Japan’s Hirofumi Hanaoka, vice minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism, during a Cuba-Japan infrastructure conference in Havana.

Representatives from 30 hi-tech Japanese companies also attended the meeting, including Fujita, Hazama Ando, Konoike, Shimizu and Tokura and Hino Motors and Hitachi, Prensa Latina reported.

The agreement followed a visit in September by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Cuba to meet President Raul Castro.

There has been a flurry of deal-making activity in Cuba since the US resumed diplomatic relations with the island nation under President Obama, fuelling expectations of a tourism and infrastructure boom.

China began direct flights to Havana in December 2015.

Cuba now allows US citizens who fall into 12 categories to travel to the island, and commercial air travel is permitted, with all major US airlines having applied for permission to begin services.

However, a more comprehensive lifting of the 56-year-old US embargo on Cuba will require legislation in the US congress, which seems unlikely in the immediate future.

US President Donald Trump announced a full review on policy toward Cuba in early February.

Image: Street scene in Havana, Cuba (Creative Commons)

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