Further Remarks on the Sino-Cuban Trade Question
by a responsible official of the
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Trade
[This article is reprinted from Peking Review, Vol. 9, #6, Feb. 4, 1966, pp. 15-16.]
The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade failed to answer the crucial question: Why did Prime Minister Castro, suddenly on the eve of the Afro-Asian-Latin American Peoples’ Solidarity Conference, unilaterally and untruthfully make public the contents of the preliminary Sino-Cuban trade negotiations for 1966 which were still going on?
Cuba began rice rationing in 1962 but there has been no increase in the ration for the Cuban population even when China increased exports to Cuba. It is true China’s export of rice to Cuba in 1966 will be less than in 1965 but it will exceed 1962 and equal 1963 and 1964. This being the case, how can the Cuban side arbitrarily connect the cut in the Cuban rice ration with the question of Sino-Cuban trade?
On January 12, “Granma,” organ of the Communist Party of Cuba, published the reply of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade to the remarks made by a responsible official of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Trade in an interview with a Hsinhua News Agency correspondent on January 9 (see “Peking Review,” No. 3, 1966). In its reply the Cuban Ministry of Poreign Trade tried in many ways to defend Prime Minister Fidel Castro’s statement on trade between China and Cuba in his January 2 speech and declared that the remarks of the responsible official of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Trade were “incomprehensible.”
In this connection, a Hsinhua correspondent has again interviewed the responsible official of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Trade, who made the following remarks (“Renmin Ribao,” while publishing these remarks on January 31, also reprinted the full text of the reply by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade as released by “Granma” on January 12): —Ed.
WE have carefully studied the reply of the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade and we think that it has failed to answer the crucial question raised in my remarks on January 9, namely, why did Prime Minister Castro unilaterally and untruthfully make public the contents of the preliminary Sino-Cuban trade negotiations for 1966 suddenly on the eve of the Afro-Asian-Latin American Peoples’ Solidarity Conference when the negotiations were going on and when the Cuban Government could very well raise its differing views and demands, if any, to the Chinese Government? Instead of answering this key question, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade expatiated on minor details, but even on these its arguments are unreasonable and completely untenable.
For instance, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade asserted that according to the volume of trade for 1966 discussed in the preliminary negotiations by the delegations of the Ministries of Foreign Trade of the two countries, the value of China’s exports to Cuba would be below that of any of the years since 1961. This is completely groundless. It is clear that the volume of trade for 1966 discussed by the two delegations in the preliminary negotiations can only be rationally compared with the annual volume of trade decided upon by the two Governments for the previous years, if any comparison is to be made; comparison on any other basis will be irrational. According to the imports and exports listed in the annexes to the trade protocols signed by the two Governments each year, the annual volume of trade (in million pesos) between China and Cuba as from 1961 are as follows:
Year China’s Exports
1961 108.00 98.00 206.00 1962 62.00 80.00 142.00 1963 77.61 70.77 148.38 1964 95.11 81.11 176.22 1965 127.00 97.00 224.00 1966 (84.50) (84.00) (168.50)
(The 1966 figures are those discussed in the preliminary negotiations.)
It can be seen from the above figures that even according to the volume of trade discussed by the two delegations in the preliminary negotiations, the value of China’s exports to Cuba in 1966 will be above that of 1962 or 1963, although it will be below that of 1965; it will in no way be below that of any of the years since 1961. This is well backed by facts, and the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade could have got the same figures just by referring to the annexes to the trade protocols signed by the representatives of both Governments in the past years. But it compiled a table of statistics with figures of three different categories. Those for 1961-64 are the actual annual values of Cuba’s imports and exports vis-a-vis China, that for 1965 is the figure in the annex to the trade protocol of the same year, while that for 1966 is the volume of trade discussed in the preliminary negotiations by the delegations of the Ministries of Foreign Trade of the two countries. How can one present a correct concept of the increase or decrease in the volume of trade between the two countries by comparing figures of three categories, each calculated on a different basis?
Secondly, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade spent much effort in compiling some nondescript figures to prove that what Prime Minister Castro affirmed about the exchange of two tons of Cuban sugar for one ton of Chinese rice was “absolutely true.” This attempt at justification is quite absurd. As a matter of fact, in the trade between China and Cuba there has never been any exchange of two kinds of commodities in direct ratio with each other. The more than a thousand kinds of commodities traded between the two sides every year, including sugar and rice, have each been priced on its own. The question of exchange between one individual kind of commodity and another simply does not exist. It was only after Prime Minister Castro proposed on October 1, 1964, to exchange sugar for rice that there appeared the term “rate of exchange between sugar and rice.” At that time Prime Minister Castro expressed the hope of Cuba to exchange one and a half kilogrammes of sugar for one kilogramme of Chinese rice, but China did not accept the proposal. This is a matter of record. No matter how the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade may argue, it cannot change the fact that the Cuban side has never proposed to the Chinese side to exchange two tons of sugar for one ton of rice.
Thirdly, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade said that it was not necessary for the Cuban side to “try to secure a credit” since the delegation of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign trade had indicated that the Chinese-proposed volume of trade for 1966 was the maximum and that there should be a balance between the two sides in the volume of trade. This assertion is spurious. The negotiations between the delegations of the Ministries of Foreign Trade of our two countries are of a preliminary nature. These delegations naturally can only propose the maximum volumes within the terms of reference of the preliminary negotiations. As for balance in trade, it is a principle guiding the trade between our two countries, which has been explicitly stipulated in the Sino-Cuban trade protocols of the previous years. But this does not prevent the use of loans to make up for the imbalance which may actually appear in the trade between the two countries. This has been done by Cuba throughout the past years. In the current preliminary negotiations, the delegation of our Ministry has mentioned the principle of balance in trade on the one hand and on the other suggested that the Cuban side consult the Chinese authorities concerned on the use of the economic co-operation loan. But instead of doing so, the Cuban side tried to shift the responsibility on to us. This does not carry conviction. People cannot help asking: This year why doesn’t Cuba do the same as it did in the past few years?
The Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade further said that as the amount of rice China preliminarily agreed to supply had decreased, the Cuban Government had to explain to the Cuban people that it would be necessary as from January 1966 to reduce the per capita rice ration from six to three pounds per month. The amount of the monthly rice ration for the Cuban population is, of course, entirely an affair of the Cuban Government. However, since the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade has linked up this issue with Sino-Cuban trade, we cannot but clarify the matters which involve us.
So far as we know, Cuba started to ration rice at the monthly quota of six pounds per capita in 1962. In that year China exported to Cuba 120,000 tons of rice. Then, in 1963 and 1964, China exported to Cuba 135,000 tons of rice each year, but the rice ration for the Cuban population remained unchanged. In 1965, China’s export of rice to Cuba nearly doubled, yet there was still no increase in the Cuban rice ration. According to the figures discussed by the two sides in the preliminary negotiations, China’s export of rice to Cuba in 1966 will indeed be less than that in 1965, but it will exceed 1962 and equal 1963 and 1964. In the face of these facts, how can one arbitrarily connect the cut in the Cuban rice ration with the question of Sino-Cuban trade?
If the Cuban side, truly because of difficulties in foreign relations, genuinely hoped that China would export more rice to Cuba in 1966, it could very well have raised the matter in negotiations at a higher level as it did in the past. But at a time when the preliminary negotiations between the delegations of the Ministries of Foreign Trade of the two countries are still going on, the Cuban side has unilaterally and untruthfully made public the contents of the negotiations and tried to shift on to China the responsibility for the cut in the rice ration for its population. This really compels us to suspect that in doing this the Cuban side is after something else.
* * *
Finally, the responsible official of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Trade said: In the trade negotiations between China and Cuba in the past few years some questions cropped up each year, but results satisfactory to both sides were always attained. We sincerely hope that the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade, treasuring the friendship between the peoples of China and Cuba, will facilitate the smooth progress of the trade negotiations for 1966 through friendly consultations.
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