Fidel, Chinese Stainless and the Biased Politics of Nickel
American Metal Market
September 2010
Cuba is one of the world’s most important sources of nickel. U.S. companies, however, are barred from accessing Cuban nickel or importing products derived from that nickel pursuant to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, which implement the U.S. embargo on Cuba. While the regulations bar the importation of items derived from Cuban-origin goods, it appears very likely that stainless steel derived from embargoed Cuban nickel is regularly entering the U.S. market from China. To date, no action has been taken in response to this apparent violation of U.S. law by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the agency responsible for enforcing the embargo. The article analyzes the impact of the U.S. embargo on Cuban nickel on the domestic stainless steel industry. The author, partner David A. Hartquist, concludes that the U.S. government should either enforce the embargo on Cuba and work with the Chinese government to ensure compliance by China’s stainless steel manufacturers, or level the playing field between Chinese and U.S. stainless steel producers by repealing the sanctions regime and allowing U.S. industry to access Cuban nickel.