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Cuba, Colombia to Remove Tariffs in Bid to Increase Trade

Cuba, Colombia to Remove Tariffs in Bid to Increase Trade
Levies on more than 2,000 products to be scrapped in a sign of Communist
island’s interest in engaging with the world
By KEJAL VYAS and DUDLEY ALTHAUS
June 17, 2016 6:04 p.m. ET

MEDELLIN, Colombia—Officials from Colombia and Cuba agreed Friday to
eliminate tariffs on more than 2,000 Colombian products, including
agricultural goods, construction materials and textiles, in a deal
underscoring the Communist island’s interest in engaging with the world.

Bilateral commercial ties between the two countries already exist, but
were valued at only $70 million last year, and represented mostly
Colombian exports to Cuba.

Officials attending the World Economic Forum in Medellín said that
figure should rise as Cuba moves to develop its agriculture and tourism
sectors.

Cuba’s minister of foreign trade, Rodrigo Malmierca, speaking alongside
his Colombian counterpart María Lacouture said he hoped it would also
lead to more Cuban products such as medicines going to Colombia.

“We’re on the correct path,” Mr. Malmierca said. “We’re sure that with
the signing of this document, exchange between both countries will
increase in an important way.”

The deal comes as the Cuban government under President Raúl Castro and
the Obama administration work to ease trade restrictions and permit the
free movement of people between the U.S. and Cuba.

“I think this is an important moment for [Cuba],” Marisol Argueta de
Barillas, head of Latin America for the World Economic Forum, said.

Cuba has belonged to the World Trade Organization for two decades and
international trade in goods and services accounts for about 45% of the
island’s small $77 billion economy, according to the WTO. The island
hasn’t signed any full-scale free trade agreements, however.

It has partial agreements with a number or countries and regional trade
organizations, said Beatriz Barreto, president of the Mexico-Cuba
Chamber, a private business group.

As a member of Aladi, a Latin American association designed to foster
economic integration, Cuba receives discounts on tariffs for products it
exports. And it has pacts with most Latin American countries, most
notably Mexico, Venezuela, Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.

Cuba has begun permitting its own people to expand private businesses
and is wooing foreign investors. While details of the pact with Colombia
were scant, trade experts said they saw it as a sign of Cuba’s interest
in increasing commerce with other countries.

“They’ve agreed on the need to deepen and widen the agreement,” Ms.
Barreto said.

Source: Cuba, Colombia to Remove Tariffs in Bid to Increase Trade – WSJ

www.wsj.com/articles/cuba-colombia-to-remove-tariffs-in-bid-to-increase-trade-1466201086

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