THE HAGUE - Dutch Deputy Foreign Minister Lilianne Ploumen will lead a mission to Cuba on Saturday to cement trade links, accompanied by major companies including Philips, Unilever and Heineken, her ministry said.
The trip comes hot on the heels of a German trade visit to Cuba this week, as relations between communist-run Cuba and the West continue to thaw.
The Netherlands is one of Cuba 's largest EU trade partners, importing 120 million euros ($131 million) worth of goods from the Caribbean island in 2014, with exports of 107 million euros, the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
The two countries signed a trade deal in 2014 covering tourism, logistics, water management and maritime affairs, agriculture and durable energy, and Foreign Minister Bert Koenders visited the island last year.
Ploumen will visit the port and socio-economic development zone at Mariel near Havana, open a Cuban-Dutch baseball game and attend a street football project run by Rotterdam-based Feyenoord football club.
"The path has been cleared to normalise economic relations between our two countries following Cuban reforms and the rapprochement with the United States," Ploumen said in a ministry statement.
But she cautioned that her government believes Havana still has much work to do on human rights -- particularly in regard to silencing critics.
"In past years, Cuba has done much to give its citizens more freedom, but a lot more needs to happen," said Ploumen.
"We'll continue to ask for more attention to this issue -- also during this trade visit."