SERGIO ALEJANDRO GÓMEZ
THE German pharmaceutical giant Bayer did business with Cuba for 118 years, until one of its regional divisions decided to change its legal address to New Jersey in the United States. The MEDICUBA enterprise, responsible for importing supplies for the health sector, was then obliged to cancel contracts to acquire contrast agents for radiological tests (Ultravist) and medicaments for the treatment of patients with multiple sclerosis (Interferon beta 1-b)
This produced a lack of supplies in the first quarter of 2013, with the consequent effects on patients.
This case demonstrates the extraterritorial nature of the blockade, which prevents enterprises from any nation undertaking commercial transactions with enterprises of Cuban origin if the former have any branches in the United States or interests with U.S. companies, regardless of their countries’ relations with Cuba, laws in effect there or the regulations of international law, as stated in a press conference by Luis Díaz Barroso who, until September 1 this year, worked in the Havana division of Bayer Handelsgesellschaft mbH.
Impediments to the purchase of medication essential to the health of the Cuban people are just one aspect of the many ramifications of the blockade onforeign trade, which from April 2012-April 2013 registered losses of close to $4 billion for this reason.
Pedro Luis Padrón, director of U.S. Commercial Policy at the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment (MINCEX), stated in a meeting with journalists in Havana that the figure is 10% higher than the previous period.
"The principal damage is registered in income not perceived through the export of goods and services, which represent 78% of all affectations." he added.
If it were able to place its products of recognized international quality on the U.S. market, the TABACUBA cigar company would have generated income of an additional $121 million. Similarly, the Havana Club International joint venture lost approximately $73 million due to the exclusion of rums made with the famous Cuban sugar cane.
These two enterprises additionally face the theft of their brands in the United States, in violation of international legislation, plus the deception of clients who buy products bearing a Cuban label which are not manufactured in the country.
In the strategic sector of foodstuffs – the prices of which are increasing daily because of climate change, demographic growth and speculation, among other factors – the Cuban ALIMPRT company lost $45 million since it has no access to U.S. banks, as any other buyer does, and a further $20 million to pay in other currencies and not dollars.
Money that could be used to buy larger volumes of food for the population, Padrón explained, must be used to pay freight charges costing an additional 24%, with the aggravating factor that ships docking in Cuban ports must return empty to the United States.
The blockade not only affects buying and selling, but the entire economic process. Padrón detailed how obtaining finance abroad has increased by 76% given the perception of Cuba as a high-risk country, the result of pressure brought to bear by U.S. authorities.
Foreign investment is likewise affected by the U.S. blockade. The MINCEX official cited the case of the oil industry, where contracts with foreign companies with drilling equipment have become more expensive, given that the technologies they use must not have more than 10% U.S. components.
At the same time, he added, damage to the tourism, energy, mining, agricultural and industrial sectors continues to be significant. •