The Cuban economy is very dependent on the outside. The country does not have much of the raw materials and products it needs, and its exportable offer is very limited and is reduced to products such as nickel, sugar, tobacco, rum, fish and shellfish, in addition to chemicals, medicines and derivatives oil from Venezuela.

To respond to this economic dependence, the Cuban government is prioritizing import substitution by increasing national production and new exportable products.

One of the sectors with greater development is tourism, which occupies a prominent place in the Cuban economy and has an important presence of Spanish hotel chains. In addition, several Spanish companies are developing real estate projects related to this sector.

In recent years, Cuba has relaunched its foreign policy with the countries of its region and at the multilateral level, including the reestablishment of relations with the United States, although President Trump has tightened the regulatory measures of bilateral exchanges. With Spain, he has maintained relations since 1902 on the basis of a friendly and constructive cooperation and the close existing historical and cultural links, overcoming past reticence.

Bilateral trade

The volume of Spanish exports to Cuba in 2017 exceeded 898 million euros, 1.1% less than the previous year. In 2018 they reached 971 million euros. Spain was the third country supplier of Cuba, behind Venezuela (oil) and China. The exported products are very diversified, from machinery and electrical equipment to supplies for agriculture, hospitality and construction, automotive spare parts and food products.

The Spanish companies that export to Cuba are mostly SMEs. About 250 are implanted in the island through commercial delegation, 37 as mixed companies and 12, between mixed and subsidiaries, in the Special Development Zone of Mariel.

Imports from Cuba in 2017 amounted to 169 million euros, while in 2018 they were reduced to 114 million euros. The products are very little diversified and are concentrated in rum, tobacco, fish and shellfish, sugar and scrap of various metals.

The main sectors of the Spanish export to Cuba in the months accounted for 2019 are plastic materials, electrical equipment, paints and inks, equipment for fluids, automotive equipment and components, construction machinery, steel and automobile foundry products. The most prominent imports from Cuba are distillates and spirits, cigars, shellfish, fuels, semi-finished products of copper and aluminum, sugar, cigarettes and iron smelting products.

Spain is one of the main investor countries in Cuba. The investment made by Spanish companies in 2017 reached 357 million euros, a decrease of 4% compared to the previous year. Most of this investment goes to the tobacco industry, accommodation services and financial services.

Business opportunities

Taking into account the shortage that characterizes the Cuban market, there are business opportunities in almost all sectors. However, the State prioritizes the sectors that generate more foreign exchange, such as tourism, nickel, tobacco, biotechnology or sugar, so that they offer more economic security to foreign companies.

The greatest investment opportunities are currently in the tourism sector, with large expansion projects for the coming years in hotel infrastructure.

The Cuban government is promoting the participation of foreign investors in the development of many economic sectors. There are 455 projects in 18 sectors, ranging from tourism to the oil and agri-food industry. This strategy includes the Special Development Zone (ZED) of Mariel, which concentrates about 50 investment projects.

The ZED Mariel has its own regulatory framework that gives it a special regime with more attractive tax advantages for foreign investment. The logistics, biotechnology and pharmaceutical and manufacturing sectors constitute the highest priority activities.

>> related links

Cuba: country file

Cuba: country guide

Cuba: economic and commercial report

Guide of the investor in Cuba

Main sectors exported to Cuba

Main sectors imported from Spain

Government of Cuba

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba

Central Bank of Cuba

ProCuba: Center for the Promotion of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment

National Bureau of Statistics and Information of Cuba

ICEX, Spain Export and Investment

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