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December 14, 1998
(Industry, Trade and Technology)

The following statement was issued today by Judy Foote, Minister of Industry, Trade and Technology. It was also read in the House of Assembly:

I am pleased to update my honourable colleagues on the developing trade relationship between Newfoundland and Labrador and Cuba. I would like to recognize his Excellency Bienvenido Garcia, Ambassador of Cuba to Canada, who is in the gallery today. The ambassador will be visiting Newfoundland and Labrador for the next two days. During the visit, we will meet to discuss our growing trade relationship.

I recently participated in a mission to Cuba to attend the Havana International Trade Fair. The mission was organized by the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce, and attended by companies and organizations from Newfoundland and Labrador. Design Management Group, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Newfoundland Styro, Terra Nova Trading and NewTel Enterprises participated in the Chamber of Commerce initiative. Several other companies travelled to Cuba on their own initiative, namely Urecon Limited, Stratos Mobile Networks and Nautical Data International.

This was an excellent opportunity to develop our export market in Cuba. It was also a positive follow-up mission for the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce, which organized a similar mission last year.

There was considerable interest generated in the Newfoundland and Labrador companies that attended the trade fair, one of the largest of its kind in the world.

As my honourable colleagues realize, increasing our export base is a key to developing a strong economy in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The mission to Cuba provided yet another opportunity to promote our province at an international venue. It was a chance for Newfoundland and Labrador companies to showcase their ability to provide quality products and services.

During the mission, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed between the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce of Cuba. This is an important agreement which will provide Newfoundland and Labrador with access to the business community in Cuba. The MOU will enable both sides to share information.

During the visit, I met with Ricardo Cabrisas, Minister of Foreign Trade, and vice ministers of the Departments of Fisheries and Aquaculture, Agriculture and Forestry, Public Health, Foreign Investment and Economic Cooperation and Basic Industry. I also had several meetings with Canadian Ambassador Keith Christie to discuss opportunities for Newfoundland and Labrador.

There were positive indications from both the Cuban officials and the businesses that they would be planning visits to Newfoundland and Labrador to follow up on business opportunities.

There are also a number of other companies that have successfully broken into the Cuban market. Seacom Consulting Inc. in St. John's has been exploring this market for the past year.

They travelled to Cuba in November, and signed a deal with a Cuban government enterprise to provide environmental and emergency response software. The company will also offer consulting services for the oil and gas industry, as well as drilling operations and training in this field. This deal will include similar contracts in Mexico, Columbia, Argentina and Spain.

Clearly, Seacom was able to work the Cuba relationship to launch their business in Latin America.

While in Cuba, Seacom was invited by a Cuban Ministry to put together a contingency of environmental technology-based companies from Newfoundland and Labrador to travel to Cuba for technology transfer sessions.

These are very positive developments that show there are indeed opportunities available in the Cuban market.

In conclusion, I applaud the efforts of the Gander and Area Chamber of Commerce for recognizing an opportunity and moving to capitalize on it.

1998 12 14 2:15 p.m.

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