Tallahassee Journal

New Cuba rules could flood island with U.S.-made goods

New Cuba rules could flood island with U.S.-made goods

As many Americans wonder how quickly they can travel to Cuba under new rules announced by the White House, business owners are more focused on how many products they could start shipping to the island. One of the surprises in the rules that go into effect Friday allows U.S. companies to sell “tools, equipment, supplies and instruments for use by private-sector entrepreneurs” in Cuba.635566547241061714-gruber-cuba

Those who’ve done business with Cuba were surprised Thursday by the vague — and permissive — wording by the Commerce and Treasury Departments that seems to allow Americans to sell anything from scissors to private barber shops to tractors to private farmers. “I don’t think any of us expected something quite as wide as this,” said Ron Oleynik, who heads the trade regulatory practice at the Holland & Knight law firm. “These are fairly careful people who drafted these (rules), so they didn’t do it blindly. They did it with an eye to leaving them vague.”

Despite the economic embargo that remains against Cuba, U.S. companies have long been able to export food, medicine and medical supplies there on humanitarian grounds. American businesses exported $273 million worth of goods to Cuba through the first 11 months of 2014 and have shipped as much as $712 million in goods there in 2008. The new rules open the door to a broad group of U.S. companies that may not have even imagined their products could end up in Cuba.

Many expected the Obama administration to expand and facilitate those transactions, and it did. Under the new rules, American banks can handle transactions from Cuban banks, making it easier for Cubans to pay for their goods. Cubans can pay upon delivery of products, eliminating the burdensome practice in which payment had to be received by American companies before they shipped their products.