Buying and Selling

flag Cuba Cuba: Buying and Selling

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


Market Access Procedures

International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Party to the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer
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)

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Reaching the Consumers

Marketing opportunities

Main Advertising Agencies

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Distributing a Product

Evolution of the Sector
Up to the beginning of the 1990s, the state-owned companies of the Ministry of External Trade were responsible for all import goods.  In the 1990s, most of these companies gradually lost their advantage to the benefit of business and production companies which had enough income in cash to act as direct importers. There were approximately 500 Cuban and mixed companies which had the necessary permit to conduct business abroad until 2003.
From 2003, this trend was reversed again and the Ministry of External Trade reinforced its control over import and export activities.  Most of the import permits were cancelled and the procedure of importing goods was made more difficult and full of red tape: purchase committees were formed to unite all importers of the same sector who together decided on the desired import goods.

Cuba has been moving over the last year to liberalize regulations over private economic activity. Since then, tens of thousands of Cubans have taken out licenses “to work for themselves,” a euphemism used by the government to describe operating mom-and-pop businesses. Cuba plans to have 40% of the labor force working in the “non-state” sector by 2018, compared with 15% at the close of 2010.

Moving most retail services to the “non-state” sector is one of more than 300 reforms approved by the ruling Communist Party earlier this year to “update” the economy. The measures aim to introduce market forces in the agriculture and retail services sectors, cut subsidies and lift restrictions on individual activity that once prohibited the sale and purchase of homes and cars.
Market share
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.

Retail Sector Organisations
Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Cuban Chamber of Commerce

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Internet access
Until 2015, the internet was virtually nonexistent in Cuba. That year, the telecommunication provider, ETECSA, begun opening up Wi-Fi Hotspots all over the country. Since then, the government has made increasing connectivity a priority, creating Wi-Fi hotspots, opening cybercafes and slowly connecting homes to the internet. Price is still a big problem, as hotspots currently charge US$1 an hour (for comparison the average monthly wage is US$ 30). As of 2018, there were public hotspots in approximately 500 public locations across Cuba, mainly in the biggest cities. However, home access remains largely inaccessible for the general population, with only 11 thousand homes being connected to the internet, according to ETECSA. The internet that is available though, is still very slow, and broadband is virtually nonexistent Cuba. Most mobile phone owners have smartphones, but mobile internet is still inaccessible in the country. However, the government plans on introducing it to the public by the end of 2018. According to ETECSA, the Cuban government plans to expand mobile internet to all 5 million mobile phone users in the country, nearly half of Cuba’s population, still in 2018.
E-commerce market
E-commerce is not yet a part of the Cuban economy. However, the country has been slowly opening up commercially, which presents a future opportunity to put in place Cuba’s e-commerce foundations. Still, for that to happen, government support is required, which seems not to be the case at the moment. Even though the internet is becoming increasingly available, the country has one of the lowest penetration rates in the world. Moreover, Cuba is still a cash based economy and international payment opitions, such as credit cards, are simply not available. Cards do exist, and a significant proportion of the population have them, but they are government-run national cards with no use outside Cuba, making them useless for e-Commerce purposes. Given that e-commerce is not developed in the country, there aren't any popular online stores in Cuba.

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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 Organisations
Ministry of Transport
Air Transport Organisations
Cuba Civil Aviation Institute (Spanish only)
Road Transport Organisations
Ministry of Transport
Rail Transport Organisations
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
Cuba Companies Database - Cuba business directory
Cuba Web Directory - List of businesses by category
Cuba Yellow Pages - Business directory in Cuba. - Cuba business directory
YelloCu - Cuba business directory

To search directories by industry in Cuba, check out our service Business Directories.

Professional Associations by Sector
16 professional associations listed for Cuba.
Trade Agencies and Their Representations Abroad
Cuba Chamber of Commerce

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Latest Update: April 2024