Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Cuba represents “a unique opportunity” to enhance political, economic, trade and financial collaboration between China and the Caribbean island-nation, Cuban Ambassador to China Alberto J. Blanco Silva said.
Premier Li will arrive in Cuba on Sept 24 local time, making the first official visit by a Chinese premier since diplomatic ties were established in 1960.
He will meet Cuban leader Raul Castro, and the two countries will sign cooperation documents covering new energy, industry and environmental protection, according to Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Chao.
Premier Li’s visit “will mark a new momentum” in bilateral ties, Blanco Silva said in a written interview with China Daily.
“Cuba is proud of being the first country in the Western hemisphere to have established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China,” he said.
China is the Latin American country’s second-largest trade partner, with sugar, tourism and biomedical research playing a key role in the island-nation’s economy.
Cuba introduced a new foreign investment law in 2014 and is developing a special economic development zone in Mariel, about 40 kilometers from the capital, Havana, to attract more foreign investors.
Blanco Silva said Cuba has adopted an innovative approach to its sugar industry by utilizing the byproducts to generate clean electricity.
China is working with his country, he said, in financing power stations “in line with the Cuban government policy of increasing the production of clean energy from 4 percent today to 24 percent by the year 2030”.
The ambassador expressed a warm welcome to Chinese tourists planning to visit Cuba as well as Chinese companies investing in building hotels there.
“A number of well-known Chinese construction companies are undertaking discussions with their Cuban counterparts to establish different types of cooperation aimed at the development of the tourism infrastructure in the country,” he said.
Tourism cooperation was enhanced in December 2015, the 55th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic ties, when Air China began flights from Beijing to Havana.
“We are of the view that in the near future the participation of Chinese investment in Cuba would match the same level of our excellent political and commercial relationship,” Blanco Silva said, adding that “a significant number of investment projects from Chinese companies are close to being implemented in the near future”.
Regarding cooperation between China and Latin America, Blanco Silva said it is “one of the greatest contributions of China to the maintenance of global peace” and Cuba supports the development of China’s relations with Latin America.
To enhance the communication between them, China and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC, have established the China-CELAC forum.
Leaders of CELAC countries agreed in 2014 during the second CELAC Summit held in Havana to set up the forum.
“China’s economic growth decisively helped most Latin American countries in their fight against the international financial crisis,” he said.