Cuba signs deal with Sprint, says it is open for more business
By Daniel Trotta and Jaime Hamre
HAVANA Nov 2 (Reuters) - Cuba signed a roaming agreement with U.S. telecom Sprint Corp during its first annual trade fair since rapprochement with the United States and told 600 companies from 70 countries at that it was eager for more business.
The Havana International Fair (FIHAV) promotes Cuba's changing business climate and seeks badly needed foreign investment. Last year's event championed a new tax-cutting foreign investment law, while this year's boasted of improved ties with the United States.
In a historic breakthrough on Dec. 17, the former Cold War foes vowed to normalize relations, although the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba remains in place.
Cuba's critics denounce the fair as hype, noting that all business deals must go through the communist government or one of its tightly controlled state companies.
Cuba acknowledged the central role of the state but also plugged its growing private sector, mostly farm cooperatives and small businesses so far.
"We are continuing to create the conditions for separating state and business functions and to improve the role that should be played by socialist state enterprises..., guaranteeing more flexible functioning," Foreign Trade Minister Rodrigo Malmierca told the opening ceremony.
Sprint, one of about 30 U.S. companies attending, has taken advantage of the limited commercial opening afforded by U.S. President Barack Obama, who has chipped away at the embargo and created a telecommunications exemption.
Among the companies hopeful of doing business here some day was PepsiCo, which had a stand in one of the exhibition halls. Continuación...