HAVANA, June 21 (Xinhua) -- Cuba continues to attract foreign investment despite increased U.S. financial sanctions and travel restrictions, Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca said on Friday.
In his opening speech at the Cuba Business Forum, jointly sponsored by the Cuban government, the European Union and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, Malmierca noted investment flows remained vigorous, stressing the importance of foreign investment to modernizing the island's socialist model.
"In the past two years, new foreign ventures have been approved with investment commitments of more than 4.5 billion U.S. dollars, and so far in 2019, partnerships have amounted to more than 1.3 billion dollars," Malmierca said.
In recent weeks, the White House has stepped up sanctions against Cuba, barring cruise ships and recreational vessels from visiting Cuban ports, and restricting travel to the island, which has dealt a blow to the tourism industry.
In May, the U.S. State Department enacted Title III of the Helms-Burton Act allowing U.S. lawsuits against foreign companies operating in Cuba with assets nationalized or expropriated following the 1959 Revolution, a move that could affect numerous European firms doing business in Cuba.
"They intend to suffocate the economy and damage Cubans' standard of living to force political concessions that we will never accept," he said.
Malmierca reaffirmed Havana's willingness to grant legal guarantees and protections to businesses and foreign investors in Cuba.
"We will continue to make progress in the process of updating our economic and social model, which has among its essential components the diversification of foreign economic relations and the essential role of foreign investment," he said.
The Cuban minister acknowledged delays in payments to foreign companies due to the financial situation in the country, as well as the "excessive paperwork" required for international business owners to establish operations in the island country.
New steps have been taken to cut the red tape, including launching a "Single Window for Foreign Investment," to facilitate new ventures.
Malmierca urged Cuban nationals abroad to invest in their country.
"Cuban regulations do not discriminate against any investor because of the origin of his capital ... we open the doors to Cubans living abroad who are interested in doing so and we will provide them with the same support we give other foreign investors," he said. Enditem