The 31st Havana International Trade Fair opened Sunday with the focus on Cuba's new Mariel Port special development zone in a bid to attract more foreign investment.
About 1,400 companies from more than 60 countries are attending this year's fair, making it the largest edition in the past 11 years, with the greatest number of exhibitors from Spain, Venezuela, Brazil, South Korea, Panama and Germany, organizers said.
The week-long fair, which runs till Saturday, features the presentation of new products, including three types of rum and cigars, but the central attraction is the Mariel Port, which is poised to become one of the largest container shipping port in the Caribbean after an expansion of the Panama Canal is completed in 2015.
Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca is scheduled to give a speech Tuesday touting the benefits of investing in the port development zone, which offers companies tax breaks and other incentives to establish production operations there.
In recent weeks, Malmierca has been touring Vietnam, China and Russia to promote Cuba's new investment opportunities. Brazil, which largely bankrolled the Mariel Port project, has voiced its interest in investing in the development zone located on Cuba's Mariel Bay, 45 kilometers west of Havana.
Havana decided to build the new port after it came to the conclusion in 2009 that the Bay of Havana could not be expanded to accommodate larger ships that will begin passing through the Panama Canal in 2015.
The project was launched in 2010 as a Cuba-Brazil joint venture with an investment of 900 million U.S. dollars. The first 700- meter stretch of dock is scheduled to be ready in December and to be officially inaugurated by Cuban President Raul Castro and his Brazilian counterpart Dilma Rousseff in January 2014.