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U.S. trade with Cuba requires reciprocal freedoms

WASHINGTON, DC: April 19, 2016. A report by the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) says exports of agricultural and manufactured goods to Cuba could increase with the lifting of trade and travel restrictions that have prevented U.S. suppliers and investors from accessing the Cuban market.

port miami entranceCuba imported U.S. goods worth US$9.3 billion in 2014, while services totaled US$2.5 billion. Before the 1960 trade embargo the country was ranked as the seventh-largest U.S. export market. By 2014 it had fallen to 125th place, importing just US$299 million of U.S. goods.

Cuban imports from the U.S. reached a high of US$712 million in 2008; however the global recession, restrictions on credit and the Cuban government's decision to reduce U.S. food purchases, saw imports from the U.S. total just US$180 million in 2015.

The USITC said U.S. government restrictions that require Cuba to pay for most U.S. goods in cash or via third-country banks have shut suppliers out of a market in which they could be competitive on price, quality, and proximity.

The report says that even with the lifting of trade barriers, the continuing Cuban government control of trade and distribution, legal limits on foreign investment and property ownership, the country's dual currency and exchange rate systems, and politically motivated decisions regarding trade and investment, would be a barrier to the expansion of trade between the two countries.

The USITC report noted that if Cuba was to respond to the lifting of trade barriers like a market-based economy, U.S. exports to Cuba of selected agricultural and manufactured products could increase in the medium term to US$1.8 billion from a an average of US$400.8 million between 2010-2013.

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