Slapped by US sanctions, Iran, Cuba to expand trade ties

Tehran and Havana enjoy warm political relations, however their trade ties are not on par with that. Now, the two countries are eyeing further trade exchanges at a time when the two are suffering from Washington’s unilateral punitive measures.

Ali Dashti

@AdashtiAli
13 May 2019
ID : 21972
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Tehran and Havana enjoy warm political relations, however their trade ties are not on par with that. Now, the two countries are eyeing further trade exchanges at a time when the two are suffering from Washington’s unilateral punitive measures.

Cuban Ambassador to Iran Alexis Bandrich Vega, left, holds talks with Gholam Hossein Shafei, President of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA). IRAN CHAMBER NEWSROOM/Mohammad Ali Mahdi

Cuba and Iran are planning to expand their economic ties through barter trade as both nations are under unilateral US sanctions.

Cuban Ambassador to Iran Alexis Bandrich Vega has proposed to Gholam Hossein Shafei, President of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA) that both countries engage in barter trade in a bid to develop their bilateral trade exchanges.

“Under the US sanctions regime, Iran and Cuba should put on their agendas the idea of selling [Iranian] oil in return for [Cuban] commodities and goods,” Bandrich Vega told Shafei during a meeting at the ICCIMA HQ in Tehran on Tuesday.

Shafei stressed that barter trade is “one of the Iranian government’s policies under the sanctions and is undoubtedly one of the paths to skirt them”.

Cuba exported $1,41bn worth of raw sugar, hand-rolled cigarettes as well as liquor in 2017, according to The Observatory of Economic Complexity.

Neither Iran nor Cuba had any trade exchange (import, export) during the last Persian year 1397 (21 March 2018-20 March 2019), according to the latest data release by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration (IRICA).

Especial Economic Development Zone of Mariel (ZEDM)

The Cuban envoy to Iran also called on the Iranian companies not to “forget” about business opportunities in the Port of Mariel, 45 km west of the capital Havana which has been developed in a bid to attract foreign investment.

The harbour is the biggest construction project undertaken in decades in Cuba, according to the Inter Press Service News Agency (IPS).

A view of the Especial Economic Development Zone of Mariel (ZEDM), west of Havana, Cuba. THE NEW YORK TIMES/Todd Heisler  

The especial zone, including a large container port, was built was by the Brazilian engineering firm group Odebrecht. The port has been dredged to 18 m, enabling it to be used by Super-Panamax vessels.

So far, Mexican, Belgian and Spanish firms are operating there and one US company is also applying for especial US license to move there, according to Cuba Business Report.

With the ability to handle 850,000 to one million containers, the Port of Mariel could become one of the major competitive hub ports of the Caribbean.  

Iranian-Cuban chambers of commerce cooperation

President of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture (ICCIMA) mentioned that Iranian businessmen and women don’t have enough information about the business opportunities in the island nation.   

Mines, aquaculture, food industries and sugar cane processing are the sectors in which the two countries can cooperate, he added, saying lack of information is the most important reason bilateral trade ties are not on par with political relations.

Vega also proposed that chambers of commerce from both countries cooperate more by organising Iraian-Cuban business forums.  

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