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Cuba

FAQs on Canada-Cuba trade

Last Updated August 3, 2006

How much trade occurs between Cuba and Canada?

Trade between Canada and Cuba totals almost $1 billion. About 22 per cent of Cuban exports go to Canada, second only to the Netherlands with about 24 per cent. Canada ranks fifth in exports to Cuba, behind Spain, Venezuela, the U.S. and China.

(A U.S. law passed in October 2000 allowing Cuba to buy U.S. food products, provided Cuba pays cash. Cuba started purchasing food more than a year later after the damage caused by Hurricane Michelle.)

What does Cuba export?

Besides cigars? Sugar, nickel, fish and citrus, along with tobacco products, make up 80 per cent of Cuba's exports. Other exports include coffee and medical products.

What does Cuba import?

Oil and food, mostly, as well as machinery and equipment.

Doesn't Cuba produce oil?

Cuba does produce its own oil, mostly from a reservoir off the north coast, discovered with the Soviets in 1971, but that oil is poor-quality "sour" crude.

However, Cuba's oil production has taken off in recent years, thanks to foreign investment from places like Spain and Canada. Spain's Repsol-YPF and Cuba's state-run oil company CUPET found large pockets of high-quality crude oil and natural gas off the coast near Havana in 2004. The U.S. Geological Survey later confirmed the find.

Since then, companies from China, India, Canada and Norway have entered partnerships to drill for offshore oil in Cuba.

The find has also sparked interest in the U.S. Two American congressmen have introduced bills in the U.S. House and Senate to exempt oil companies from the embargo on Cuba.

What Canadian companies are operating in Cuba?

There are about 85 Canadian companies operating in Cuba, including Labatt and Pizza Nova, which has six locations in Cuba.

The largest foreign investor in Cuba is Sherritt International Corp., a natural resources company based in Toronto. State-owned Cubaniquel and Sherritt jointly operate a nickel and cobalt facility in Moa, Cuba.

Other Canadian companies are more tight-lipped about their operations in Cuba. Under the American Helms-Burton Act, officials and major stockholders of Canadian companies that do business in Cuba can be barred from entering the U.S.

How big is the Cuban economy?

According to the CIA, Cuba's gross domestic product — the value of its annual production of goods and services — is about $44 billion. That's about the same as Kenya, Turkmenistan and Nepal.

Isn't tourism a big part of that?

Absolutely. Tourism is the country's largest source of foreign exchange. Canada is Cuba's largest source of tourism revenue and sends the largest number of tourists to the island, followed by Italy and France.

Can I spend Canadian dollars in Cuba?

You could try, but the only currencies recognized in Cuba are the Cuban peso and the Cuban convertible peso. The peso (CUP) is used mainly by Cuban citizens for everyday expenses. The convertible peso (CUC) is known as the "tourist" peso and is used for luxury purchases and services. This can cause confusion since a Canadian dollar is worth about 24 CUP but only 0.8 CUC. Both currencies are known as the peso and both use the symbol $.

The U.S. dollar was once a widely circulated currency in Cuba, but that ended in 2004 when the Castro government removed the dollar from circulation in reaction to tighter sanctions. There is a 10 per cent surcharge, applied only to U.S. dollars, to exchange greenbacks for convertible pesos. Tourists and Americans with relatives in Cuba are now advised to make use of euros.

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Cuba Quickfacts

Population: 11,263,429

Capital: Havana

Government type: Communist

President: Fidel Castro

Major language: Spanish

Location: Caribbean, island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, 150 kilometres south of Key West, Florida

Total area: 110,860 square kilometres

Coastline: 3,735 kilometres

Natural resources: cobalt, nickel, iron ore, copper, manganese, salt, timber, silica, petroleum, arable land

Exports partners: Netherlands 19.1 per cent, Russia 18.1 per cent, Canada 14.3 per cent, Spain 9.5 per cent, China 7.3 per cent (2002)

Imports partners: Spain 17.2 per cent, China 12 per cent, Italy 9.1 per cent, France 7.6 per cent, Mexico 7.3 per cent, Canada 6.2 per cent, U.S. 5.6 per cent, Brazil 4.7 per cent (2002)

Source: CIA World Factbook

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