Cuba's program to modernize its socialist economic model will present opportunities and challenges for Spanish companies doing business on the island, Havana's envoy to Spain told Efe.

Spain is one of Cuba's three main trading partners and is the country's leading source of foreign direct investment and international visitors, Eugenio Martinez Enriquez pointed out.

The value of Spanish exports to Cuba averages 1 billion euros ($1.35 billion) a year, he said.

Bilateral relations have reached a level of maturity that allows Cuba and Spain "to manage and resolve differences that emerge," according to the ambassador, who took up his post in Madrid last month.

"Spanish businesspeople know the Cuban market. The transformation of the system and of the economic and social model opens new opportunities" for investment, Martinez Enriquez said, especially in the special development zone surrounding the port of Mariel.

The Mariel zone, 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Havana, is a big part of the Communist government's push to overhaul Cuba's economy.

The Spanish-Cuban business commission will review the progress of bilateral projects during a meeting next week in Havana.

Cuba is "experiencing economic difficulties, but it is a stable country with very low levels of violence," Martinez Enriquez said, and the islands continues to receive around 3 million tourists a year "despite the hostile policy" of the United States. EFE