Cuba - International trade
Before 1959, the United States was Cuba's most important trading partner, a natural development due to its geographic proximity. That relationship ended in 1960 with the U.S. trade embargo. Cuba then courted the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies to become its primary trading partners. Due to the strict economic organization of the Communist system, only 50 Cuban companies were allowed to participate in foreign trade until 1987. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989, Cuba was soon trading with a number of countries, including Spain, France, Italy, Mexico, Canada, Russia, the Netherlands, and Venezuela. About 40 percent of Cuba's trade is within the Americas and 50 percent is with Europe. Main imports include fuel, food, semi-finished goods, wheat, vegetables, machinery, feed, and corn. Main exports are sugar, fish, nickel, medicinal products, and fruit. Cuba has consistently faced an unfavorable balance of trade ; in 1999 imports were valued at US$3.2 billion and exports at US$1.4 billion. This situation places Cuba in a dependent position, unable to earn hard currency and reliant on other countries for vital goods.