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July 23, 2007 

ITC Issues Report on Economic Effects of U.S. Restrictions on U.S. Agricultural Sales to Cuba

In response to a request by the Senate Finance Committee, the U.S. International Trade Commission last week issued a report entitled "U.S. Agricultural Sales to Cuba: Certain Economic Effects of U.S. Restrictions".

The ITC's report provides an overview of Cuba's purchases of agricultural products since 2000, an analysis of the effects that U.S. restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens have on those Cuban purchases and estimates of likely U.S. agricultural sales if such restrictions were lifted.

The major findings trade-related findings of the report include:

  • Following implementation of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSRA) of 2000, U.S. exports grew rapidly and by 2004 the U.S. was the largest supplier of agricultural products to Cuba.
  • However, following OFAC's February 2005 policy change that required the seller to receive payment from the Cuban buyer prior to the departure of the vessel carrying the goods to Cuba, the value of Cuban agricultural imports from the United States dropped by 10% in 2005 and a further 4% in 2006.
  • U.S. regulations, such as those requiring the Cuban government to pay for U.S. agriculture products in cash or through letters of credit drawn on third-country banks, raise the cost of U.S. goods for Cubans and likely limit U.S. sales.
  • The ITC found that OFAC appears to have restricted business travel to and from Cuba that is necessary for U.S. exporters to effectuate sales. Particularly important are Cuban officials traveling to the United States to inspect U.S. processing facilities, U.S. port facilities, fresh produce, live animals and other products subject to sanitary and phytosanitary standards. For many of these products, the ITC found that restricting business travel effectively bars U.S. sales to Cuba.
  • OFAC restrictions on maritime shipping of U.S. products to Cuba significantly increased
    freight charges for cargo to Cuba above freight charges to other Caribbean destinations.
  • Overall, the ITC found that all U.S. agricultural commodity sectors would likely benefit from the lifting of the financing restrictions on U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba.

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