Cuba flag Cuba: Economic and Political Overview

Foreign trade figures of Cuba

Foreign Trade in Figures

According to the Cuban Chamber of Commerce and the World Bank, Cuba is not only a country that is open to foreign trade, but it is also highly dependant on it - which represents 80% of the GDP. According to the latest available data from Comtrade, in 2006 the island mainly exported medicaments (7.3%), cigars (7.3%), powered aircraft (3%), crustaceans (1.9%), and medical apparatus (1.4%), while Cuba mainly imported electric generating sets and rotary converters (4.8%), refrigerators (2.9%), electric filament or discharge lamps (1.8%), rice (1.7%), and medical apparatus (1.7%). However, the latest data available from the Observatory of Economic Complexity estimates that in 2020 Cuba mainly imported poultry meat (5.4%), wheat (3.4%), soyabean meal (3.1%), corn (2.7%), and concentrated milk (2.5%), while the country exported rolled tobacco (23.8%), raw sugar (17.5%), nickel mattes (11.1%), hard liquor (8%), and zinc ore (6.5%).

Cuba's main trade partners are China, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. The embargo imposed by the United States has long been an obstacle to Cuba's foreign trade. And even though the Obama administration lifted the Cold War embargo policy off of Cuba in 2016, former-president Trump suspended the policy for unconditional sanctions relief, saying that he would work on a "better deal" between the two countries. However, U.S.-Cuba relations are expected to improve under the current administration, as president Biden has attested he intends to reverse the Trump's Cuban policies. Located at the crossroads between Latin America and the United States, Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean and maintains strong economic and financial relations with Venezuela - its energy partner. With the current economic crisis in Venezuela, oil shipments have fallen sharply and are now down by around 40% compared to 2014 levels. Relations with China, Cuba's most important trade partner, have been intensifying for the past decade. Furthermore, Beijing purchases much of the Cuban nickel, which has overtaken sugar as the country's leading export commodity.

Cuba's lack of transparency remains an obstacle towards accurately accounting its trade balance. According to the WTO data, Cuba is a net importer of goods and, in 2021, imports of goods were equal to USD 8.4 billion, while exports totalled USD 1.4 billion; thus leading to a negative trade balance of USD 7 billion. Moreover, the imports of services in 2019 (latest available data) were USD 2 billion, by far inferior to the exports, which totalled USD 10.2 billion - resulting on a services trade balance of USD 8.2 billion.

Foreign Trade Values 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 11,4849,9017,2308,4310
Exports of Goods (million USD) 2,3732,0621,7031,9661,763
Imports of Services (million USD) 2,1932,0281,5381,6880
Exports of Services (million USD) 11,78910,2406,9855,8840

Source: World Trade Organisation (WTO) ; Latest available data

Foreign Trade Indicators 20172018201920202021
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP)
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -1.6-2.0-2.9-7.6-4.7
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 0.0-2.4-4.6-20.5-9.1
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 11.712.610.67.545.1
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 14.614.512.28.234.9

Source: World Bank ; Latest available data

International Economic Cooperation
Cuba is a member of:

- WTO (the GATT agreement came into force on the 20/03/1948 in Havana) but it only became an active member again on the 20/04/1995
-The Latin American integration association (ALADI) and in this context, it has entered into some preferential bilateral agreements (with Chile and Argentina concerning wine).
Cuba has additionally signed an agreement for economic cooperation with Venezuela called the ALBA (Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas): Since 2000, Venezuela has thus supplied 100 000 barrels of petrol a day to Cuba through this agreement while Cuba has sent more than 20 000 doctors to Venezuela.

Cuba is also a member of:

- the World Health Organization (WHO)
- the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)
- the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)
- the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
- the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (OPANAL)
- the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)

The country have signed a trade agreement with 21 other countries in the São Paulo Round of the Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP).


To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows.

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Latest Update: December 2023