CUBA STANDARD — Trying to bring some of Europe’s larger corporations to the table, a Paris-based consultant is planning to launch a Cuba business association with an Oct. 4 event in Marseille.
Carlos Gómez Betancourt, a Cuban-trained lawyer with French international business and real estate law degrees who has consulted larger French companies, says he has construction company Bouygues, shipping company CMA CGM, airport operator Aéroports de Paris, hotel chains Accor and Kempinski, and liquor giant Pernod Ricard lined up for the event and his Cuba Business Club. He also expects the city of Marseille, the European Commission and the World Economic Forum to back his project.
Gómez — who has helped organize the Franco-Cuban Friendship Association in France’s National Assembly, set up an exchange of the law schools of the universities of Havana and Aix-en-Provence, and organized a Cuba roundtable of French CEOs in 2016 — is seeking the official “seal of approval” for the launch event in Marseille, saying he invited the Cuban ambassador, a Foreign Investment Ministry official, the head of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, the French foreign minister, and a former secretary of state for international trade.
He said he would also like to bring Paul Polman, the president-elect of the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce, to the event. Polman is the CEO of Unilever, the consumer-goods multinational that is building a joint venture manufacturing plant at the Mariel Special Development Zone.
The Cuba Business Club — Gómez decided to give it the name in English — will be a lobbying and networking organization for “good, serious enterprises”, to promote trade and investments and provide realistic information about the market, he said.
“The information flow about business in Cuba is insufficient,” Gómez said. “There’s a lot of guesswork. We have to involve more institutions, beyond the trade office of the Cuban embassy.”
“There is no business model to accompany companies, from the beginning to operating in Cuba. So why not create a self-administered association with corporate executives who can bring experience-based information to the table?”
The Cuba Business Club will try to appeal to companies beyond France. Among others, Gómez says he is working on Spanish tourism conglomerate Globalia and Caterpillar Corp.
“France and Europe are our primary field,” he said. “But eventually we will expand to the United States and China, and places like Vietnam and Singapore.”
The Cuba Business Club will offer three levels of membership — “ambassadeur” for €9,000 a year, “diplomatique” for €7,400, and “young mover & shaker” for €2,200.
The Business Club will have a presence at this year’s Havana International Fair, Oct. 29-Nov. 2, Gómez said.
Gómez also said he has been working with French banks, trying to bring them back to Cuba. In 2015, the U.S. government imposed a $8.5 billion fine on BNP Paribas and investigated Crédit Agricole for violating U.S. sanctions, prompting a pullout from Cuba.