More than 300 foreign firms have reportedly applied to operate in Cuba’s first and the only free trade zone in Mariel, a fishing town some 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Havana.
A senior government official told the Prensa Latina news agency that the government is processing the applications, but there are no details as to which organizations or corporations have applied to invest in the zone.
Last month, Mexico announced that its meat processing company Richmeat had become the first foreign company to gain official approval to establish a manufacturing unit in the free trade zone.
The high number of applications demonstrates that foreign multinationals are eager to make the most of the U.S. decision to lift its 50-year embargo on the communist country.
Adjacent to the zone is the Mariel Seaport, which hopes to handle as many as one million containers per year. A Singaporean firm is currently managing the port, while the Brazilian government has funded much of its construction.
The Cuban government has also unveiled plans to link the port with highways and railroads, an effort that will see Mariel replace Havana as the country’s most important port.
The free trade zone offers tax breaks and other financial incentives to foreign firms, although the Cuban government is yet to unveil a proper guideline detailing how international firms can benefit from investment.
Reports indicate that the success of Mariel free-trade zone could persuade Cuba to launch similar projects in the future. Free-trade zones have already proven successful growth engines in several other Latin American countries.