Today, September 18, the United States announced new regulations to improve U.S. trade and travel with Cuba. Additional positive changes also are expected over the next several months.
New Trade and Travel Regulations
The U.S. Departments of the Treasury and Commerce on Friday announced new regulations, to be effective on September 21 upon their publication in the Federal Register, that will ease restrictions on U.S. companies seeking to do business in Cuba and on U.S. citizens traveling to the island.
The new rules target travel, telecommunications, Internet-based services, business operations, banking and remittances. They also will allow U.S. companies to establish a presence in Cuba with offices, stores, warehouses and Cuban employees.
Although the new rules do not change who can travel to Cuba, the rules do ease movement of authorized travelers there by licensing transportation providers. They also lift the cap on remittances and allow U.S. travelers to open and maintain bank accounts there.
The new regulations also increase educational opportunities by allowing Internet-based courses and further expand humanitarian efforts by allowing disaster relief.
Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said, “Today’s announcement underscores the Administration’s commitment to promote constructive change for the Cuban people. These regulatory changes build on the revisions implemented earlier this year and will further ease sanctions related to travel, telecommunications and internet-based services, business operations in Cuba, and remittances. A stronger, more open U.S.-Cuba relationship has the potential to create economic opportunities for both Americans and Cubans alike. By further easing these sanctions, the United States is helping to support the Cuban people in their effort to achieve the political and economic freedom necessary to build a democratic, prosperous, and stable Cuba.”
Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker added, “The regulations published today are designed to support the emerging Cuban private sector and bring us one step closer to achieving President Obama’s historic policy goals. These actions build upon previous Commerce regulatory changes, and will ease travel restrictions, enhance the safety of Americans visiting the country, and promote more business opportunities between U.S. and Cuban companies. In addition to expanding our commercial engagement with the Cuban people, these additional adjustments have the potential to stimulate long overdue economic reform across the country.”
According to the president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, the two departments have “gone farther at one time than most anyone expected. Not only are companies able to establish a physical presence in Cuba and hire Cuban workers, but . . . [the new rules] are also extending loans and lease payment terms for authorized products.
Other Future Changes
The U.S. and Cuba will open regular postal mail service. Initially it will be a “pilot program” allowing Cubans and Americans to send mail directly to one another using the Miami and Havana airports.
The two countries soon should finalize an agreement on resuming direct, commercial airline routes although the first flights will not happen until next year.
Progress before year-end is expected on counter-narcotics cooperation that will expand Coast Guard interdiction efforts to include the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency partnering with its Cuban counterpart; joint environmental work involving the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and setting up maritime passenger routes.
 U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, Treasury and Commerce Announce Further Amendments to the Cuba Sanctions Regulations (Sept. 18, 2015); Davis, Restrictions on Cuba Travel and Business Lifted by U.S., N.Y. Times (Sept. 18, 2015); Reuters, U.S. Moves to Open Up Business With Cuba, Ease Embargo, N.Y. Times (Sept. 18, 2015); Davis, U.S. to Announce Loosening of Business and Travel Restrictions on Cuba, N.Y. Times (Sept. 17, 2015); Assoc. Press, US, Cuba to Resume Mail Service This Year; Other Steps Near, N.Y. Times (Sept. 17, 2015).