The Cuban government is not afraid that the U.S. economic embargo is discouraging foreign investors from participating in its massive development project at Mariel harbor, the foreign trade minister said Tuesday.

"We're of the opinion that, despite the embargo, investors are going to keep coming," Rodrigo Malmierca told reporters in Havana.

He said that many countries and foreign companies have expressed interest in the Mariel Special Development Zone, the first such area to be created on the island as part of the Raul Castro government's plan to "update" Cuba's socialist economic model.

Specifically, businessmen from Russia, China, Vietnam, Germany, Spain, Japan, Mexico and Brazil have expressed interest in investing in the zone, Ana Teresa Igarza, the director of the entity tasked with administering the project, told the media.

Taking advantage of the Havana International Trade Fair, the island's main international business event which is currently under way, Malmierca on Tuesday presented the project and the incentives being offered to foreign capital.

In the large zone 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Havana there will be more facilities than in the rest of the island put together for the establishment of foreign companies, including tax and customs exemptions, as well as greater agility in handing and evaluating the projects that may be presented.

Among the advantages, the Cuban government is emphasizing the strategic location of Mariel, whose port is being modernized with Brazilian financing to capture business opportunities that will open up with the next expansion of the Panama Canal.

During the presentation of the zone, the Cuban government said that its priorities in the first stage of the program are projects related to biotechnology, the pharmaceutical industry, renewable energy, tourism and agriculture, among others. EFE