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flag Cuba Cuba: Selling and Buying

In this page: Market Access Procedures | Reaching the Consumers | Distributing a Product | Organizing Goods Transport | Identifying a Supplier


Market Access Procedures

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
Main International Economic Cooperation
Cuba is a member of:

- WTO (the GATT agreement came into force on the 20/03/1948 in Havana) but it only became an active member again on the 20/04/1995
-The Latin American integration association (ALADI) and in this context, it has entered into some preferential bilateral agreements (with Chile and Argentina concerning wine).
Cuba has additionally signed an agreement for economic cooperation with Venezuela called the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas): Since 2000, Venezuela has thus supplied 100 000 barrels of petrol a day to Cuba through this agreement while Cuba has sent more than 20 000 doctors to Venezuela.

Cuba is also a member of:

- the World Health Organization (WHO)
- the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)
- the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
- the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
- the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL)
- the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

The country have signed a trade agreement with 21 other countries in the São Paulo Round of the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP).

Non Tariff Barriers
Most goods can be imported into Cuba. Purchases made abroad are first assessed at the companies' level where commissions for contracts are established, then at the Ministry level. A certain number of products are subject to standards which may depend on authorisation. Companies wishing to trade with Cuba have to supply a certain number of documents (certificate of origin, invoice, etc.).
Cuba applies special tax schemes with regard to temporary imports.
Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
The income duty rates are on the whole fairly reasonable. The average rate for customs tax was 21.3% in 2006 (average final consolidated duty according to the WTO), 37% for agricultural products and 9.4% for other products. With regard to merchandise coming from WTO member states or from countries with which bilateral agreements exist, Cuba applies the most favored nation clause (the MFN). The average of the duties applied in 2007 were at 10.8%.

Customs Classification
The nomenclature in force is the harmonized system of Brussels. Cuba has lowered its customs duties since 1996, the duties range from 0 to 30% (within the framework of the most favored nation clause) according to the nature of the products. However, some products are more taxed in order to protect local productions (such as fizzy drinks, beers and spirits). The average rate of custom duties, calculated on the CIF value of the merchandise is around 10%. 
For more information on the customs duties in Cuba refer to the Cuban Custom Authority.
Import Procedures
There is no quota system in Cuba but the process of importation remains nevertheless strictly controlled by the State, which sets the budgets of main importing bodies, has but in place importation committees by product and official channels and which determines the priority sectors in the context of currency shortages.  Since 2004, all the purchases of merchandise and services from abroad have to get the approval of the Central Bank Currency Approval Committee (CAD).  In 2007 and 2008, there was some leniency brought to this rule.
For Further Information
Cuban Customs (Spanish only)

Learn more about Traders, Agents in Cuba on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing Opportunities

Consumer Behavior
The Cuban communist regime imposed restrictions on the development of international commercial exchanges and consequently stopped the local population's access to a diversified and abundant choice to consumer products.  In actual fact, there are two versions of the Cuban market: Cuban consumers struggle daily to meet their basic needs (food, housing, transport, etc.) while foreign tourists have access to a whole range of services whose prices are in keeping with their purchasing power.
Consumer Profile and Purchasing Power
Often in Cuba people have to live with severe shortages caused by governmental import restrictions and by the ongoing American embargo.  Therefore, life for Cubans follows a rhythm set by the constraints of these shortages: lack of basic products and especially food, power cuts and fuel rationing.  Even if the "Libreta" (rations card which imposes restrictions on oil, rice, coffee and other goods) ensures that each Cuban receives the minimum, the very low salaries make it difficult for other need to be met (electric bill, clothes and other expenses).
Main Advertising Agencies

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Distributing a Product

Market Shares
In Cuba, several distribution outlets co-exist: distribution chains meant for tourists, distribution chains meant for the population and for foreign residents and the intermediate ones.

1. Distribution chains meant for tourists sell souvenir items and food industry products on retail.
2. Distribution chains meant for the Cuban population sell everyday products (food industry products, household products, etc).
3. Foreign companies do not have access to the wholesale and retail Cuban market.  They can only sell to companies or Cuban entities if these latter have a corresponding export permit.  The procedures of sale are at times a bit complex: Cuban companies wishing to import merchandise have to first obtain the approval from the Ministry to which they are linked.

Organizations in the Retail Sector
Search engine for the Cubaindustria website which enables researching Cuban import companies.

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Organizing Goods Transport

Main Useful Means of Transport
Cuba is the main entrance into the Gulf of Mexico and as such, a strategic passageway for maritime commerce.  Consequently maritime transportation is the most favored method for transporting merchandise and in fact, the government has put together a plan aimed at modernizing the port infrastructures.
ASPORT (Grupo Empresarial de Industria Portuaria) - System and Organization of Ministries. (Spanish Only)
World airport guide
Sea Transport Organizations
Ministry of Transport
Air Transport Organizations
Cuba Civil Aviation Institute (Spanish only)
Road Transport Organizations
Ministry of Transport
Rail Transport Organizations
Cuban Department of Transportation

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Identifying a Supplier

Type of Production
Cuba has considerable mineral wealth: nickel, cobalt, chromium, copper, tungsten, manganese, iron, gold, silver, zeolithe, calcium carbonate and silica sand.  The oil that is currently being extracted is of very poor quality (heavy, viscous and heavily loaded with sulfur (between 10° and 20° API)), which very much limits its use at the moment. The Cuban industry concentrates, on the most part, to processing agricultural products, manufacturing machines for the agricultural sector and production of raw materials for the construction sector (cement, prefabricated buildings...).

Business Directories

Multi-sector Directories - Cuba - Directory of companies in Cuba.
Caribseek - Cuba - Directory about business and finance in Cuba.
Cuba Yellow Pages - Find a business in Cuba.
Paginas Amarillas - Cuba's Yellow Pages.
Manufacturers Associations of the Main Industries
1 professional associations listed for Cuba.
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
Cuba Chamber of Commerce

Learn more about Service Providers in Cuba on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Last Updates: October 2014