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Doing Business with Cuba (3): Import Restrictions, Quotas and Licensing Requirements

Import taxes aside, Cuba maintains few prohibitions on imports. It has no import quotas in place, does not impose any traditional licensing requirements on imports, and has no pre-shipment inspection requirements. The World Trade Organization (WTO) has also no record of Cuba applying any anti-dumping, countervailing or safeguard measures on imports in the past five to six years.

On Import Prohibitions

Cuba maintains certain prohibitions on the importation of psychotropic substances, drugs, weapons, explosives and certain other items, in accordance with Article XX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Also generally prohibited are precursor substances, blood products, pornographic literature and obscene articles, and literature or articles that go against the general interests of the nation. Any prohibitions or restrictions will normally be communicated to the foreign exporter by the authorised Cuban importing company.

Cuba maintains more comprehensive restrictions on non-commercial importations made by persons travelling to the country. In addition to the products described above, prohibitions are in place for air conditioners with a capacity higher than one tonne, or 12,000 British thermal units (BTU), most electric cookers and stoves, electric ovens (except microwave ovens with an electrical consumption not exceeding 2,000 watts), electrical resistances of any kind, light motor vehicles, motor vehicle frames and certain animal products.

Moreover, prior authorisation is required for a range of products imported by persons travelling to Cuba, including wireless fax equipment; telephone whiteboards; routers and switches; RLAN and similar wireless access points; wireless phones not operating within the 40-49 megahertz (MHz), 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) or 5 GHz bands; wireless microphones and articles thereof; radio transmitters of any kind; radio transceivers; professional radio reception apparatus; earth stations and satellite communication terminals; equipment for the mass dissemination of data, text or voice through wireless means; satellite positioning systems used for determining geographical co-ordinates, for hydrographic and geodetic purposes; biological and pharmaceutical products of animal origin for veterinary use; flora, fauna and any remains thereof; food products that do not comply with applicable sanitary and phytosanitary regulations; representative works of Cuban or foreign artists edited by the Ministry of Culture; live animals, plants and parts thereof, and products of animal or plant origin, whether or not processed, which are subject to inspection and authorisation by Cuban sanitary and phytosanitary authorities; firearms and ammunition, which require specific authorisation by the Ministry of Interior; and species protected under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES), which require a special permit.

On Quotas and Licensing Requirements

Cuba does not have any import quotas in place, nor does it impose any traditional licensing requirements on imports or have any pre-shipment inspection requirements. However, import operations in Cuba may only be conducted by an authorised Cuban importing company or trade agent, and imports by non-authorised entities are prohibited.

The importation of certain products is also subject to sanitary/phytosanitary requirements or other restrictions, generally in the interests of national security, consumer health or environmental protection. In the case of food products, for example, a health registration must be obtained from the Cuban Ministry of Public Health’s Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety (INHA) before any such products can be imported into the country. Exporters of consumer food products to Cuba must normally ensure that their product undergoes sanitary product registration with the INHA prior to shipment.

The following information is required for purposes of sanitary product registration: (1) company name; (2) product name; (3) commercial name; (4) name of the manufacturer; (5) country of origin; (6) physical and chemical specifications of the product; (7) composition (list of ingredients); (8) product label in accordance with Cuban Standard NC108:2001 or CODEX STAN 1-1985; (9) date marking (date of minimum durability); (10) packaging; (11) food additives; (12) limits of metal contaminants; (13) limits of microbiological contaminants; (14) other contaminants; (15) storage instructions; (16) information required to decipher the lot code, if applicable; (17) certificates (certificate of free sale and operating certificate or sanitary licence of the manufacturing establishment); and (18) instructions for use and any other pertinent information about the product.

In addition to the above, three product samples are also required. While there are no requirements for sample sizes for testing, exporters should provide samples in quantities or sizes big enough for laboratory analysis. Registration usually takes about 15 days from the time that all the documents and samples have been received.

Content provided by Picture: Louis Chan
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