Among the amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations published by OFAC on January 16 is a provision (section 515.582) that provides that “[p]ersons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are authorized to engage in all transactions, including payments, necessary to import certain goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs as determined by the State Department as set forth on the State Department's Section 515.582 List ….” At the time of the CACR revisions, the State Department had not yet published that list.
On February 13, the State Department published the Section 515.582 List. The State Department's announcement actually is a negative list of categories of the U.S. tariff schedules that are not authorized. Items covered by non-listed categories are permitted.
In fact, the majority of tariff categories are excluded. The categories that are allowed cover product categories such as leather goods, wood items, shoes and works of art. Cigar imports remain prohibited.
The United States does not grant any tariff benefits to Cuba, and imports from that country are subject to relatively high “Column 2” rates. Persons carrying authorized items in their luggage when returning from Cuba may be able to apply the personal use exemption, but purchases of products in commercial quantities will remain complicated.
Note that the State Department’s notice emphasizes that persons importing goods under Section 515.582 “must obtain documentary evidence that demonstrates the entrepreneur’s independent status, such as a copy of a license to be self-employed issued by the Cuban government or, in the case of an entity, evidence that demonstrates that the entrepreneur is a private entity that is not owned or controlled by the Cuban government.”