Skirting U.S. sanctions, Cubans flock to cryptocurrency to shop online, send funds

HAVANA (Reuters) – Jason Sanchez, 35, was able to start buying spare parts online last year for his cellphone repair shop in Havana thanks to the advent of cryptocurrency trading in Communist-run Cuba. Cuba, which in many ways remains stuck in the analogue past, may seem an unlikely hotbed for cryptocurrencies – digital tokens that use encryption techniques to secure transactions. Yet the roll-out of mobile internet nearly a year ago has opened the way for cryptocurrency transactions, and enthusiasts have multiplied as the currency helps overcome obstacles created by U.S. sanctions on Cuba. The decades-old U.S. trade embargo cuts Cubans off from conventional international payment systems and financial markets. Cubans cannot obtain credit or debit cards for international use on the island and struggle to do so abroad. So Cubans like Sanchez are buying digital currencies, which are mostly unregulated, decentralized and anonymous, to make purchases online as well as to invest and trade. “This is really opening new doors for us,” said Sanchez, who uses Bitcoin, the most well known cryptocurrency, to purchase parts not available new in Cuba from an online Chinese store. ...

Factbox: Tariff wars – duties imposed by Trump and U.S. trading partners

(Reuters) – China on Monday raised tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods in retaliation for President Donald Trump’s decision to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports last week, escalating the trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Trump has rattled the world trade order by imposing unilateral tariffs to combat what he calls unfair trade practices by China, the European Union and other major trading partners of the United States. The bulk of Trump’s tariffs have been aimed at China, covering $250 billion worth of Chinese goods so far. He also has directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to launch the process of imposing tariffs on all remaining imports from China, another $300 billion worth of goods. The latest tariff increases mark an end to a more than five-month truce after Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in December 2018 to try to negotiate an end to the dispute. - 25% tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese technology goods including machinery, semiconductors, autos, aircraft parts and intermediate electronics components imposed on July 6 and Aug. 23 as part of “Section 301” probe into China’s intellectual pro...