Cuba is home to 11 million consumers and a growing private sector. Its proximity to the United States (the Port of Havana is only 198 nautical miles from the Port of Miami) makes the country a natural trade partner. While changes in policy over the last several years have unlocked new business opportunities in Cuba, there are still regulatory barriers that individuals and companies should be aware of.
The United States imposed a comprehensive economic embargo on Cuba in the 1960’s which restricts most trade between the two countries. It also includes restrictions on travel and investment.
Although the U.S. faced pressure to end the embargo, the state of affairs remained largely unchanged until 2014.
In December 2014, President Obama made a historic announcement: “Today, the United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people.” By January 16, 2015, both the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended its Cuban Assets Control Regulations, and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) amended the Export Administration Regulations with a “Support for the Cuban People” license exception. The license exception was most significant for travel, telecom, building materials and agricultural equipment, financial services, and personal importations.