U.S. Secretaries of Commerce and of Treasury Comment on Developments Regarding Cuba   

At the request of President Obama, the outgoing heads of various federal government departments and agencies have submitted “exit memos” to review progress over the last eight years of his administration and to provide roadmaps to the future. A previous post reviewed the comments about Cuba in the exit memo by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Here are the comments about Cuba in the exit memos from U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Jacob J. Lew. [1]

Secretary of Commerce

“The Department has taken a lead role to fundamentally change U.S. policy toward Cuba. We launched the U.S.-Cuba Regulatory Dialogue and, in coordination with the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Department has published six sets of regulatory changes aimed at empowering the Cuban people through increased economic engagement. From January 2015 through September 2016, we issued 738 licenses for proposed exports and re-exports to Cuba valued at $9.4 billion. In addition, we worked with the private sector to identify the most effective ways to increase economic engagement and ultimately benefit the Cuban people.”

Secretary of Treasury

“And, as we chart new courses with other countries, such as Cuba, we should be mindful of how we can use our economic tools to create the conditions for a changed relationship.”

=============================================

[1] White House, Exit Memo, Department of Commerce (Jan. 5, 2017); White House, Exit Memo, Department of The Treasury (Jan. 5, 2017).
 

U.S. Loosens Certain Restrictions on Transactions with Cuba

On January 26, the U.S. Departments of the Treasury and Commerce released additional amendments to regulations regarding export payment and financing and airline travel with Cuba that will be effective on January 27.[1]

The changes will authorize financial transactions regarding professional meetings, disaster preparedness, information and informational materials and professional media or artistic productions in Cuba.

Other changes will allow U.S. airlines to have blocked space, code-sharing and leasing arrangements with Cuban airlines.

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew said, “Today’s amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations build on successive actions over the last year and send a clear message to the world: the United States is committed to empowering and enabling economic advancements for the Cuban people.  We have been working to enable the free flow of information between Cubans and Americans and will continue to take the steps necessary to help the Cuban people achieve the political and economic freedom that they deserve.”

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said, “Following the first ever U.S.-Cuba Regulatory Dialogue and my fact-finding trip to Cuba in October, we have been working tirelessly to maximize the beneficial impact of U.S. regulatory changes on the Cuban people.  Today’s Commerce rule builds on previous changes by authorizing additional exports including for such purposes as disaster preparedness; education; agricultural production; artistic endeavors; food processing; and public transportation.  These regulatory changes will also facilitate exports that will help strengthen civil society in Cuba and enhance communications to, from and among the Cuban people.  Looking ahead, we will continue to support greater economic independence and increased prosperity for the Cuban people, as we take another step toward building a more open and mutually beneficial relationship between our two nations.”

=========================================================

[1] Reuters, U.S. Eases Air Travel, Export Financing Sanctions on Cuba, N.Y. Times (Jan. 26, 2016); U.S. Treasury Dep’t, Treasury and Commerce Announce Further Amendments to the Cuba Sanctions Regulations (Jan. 26, 2016).

 

U.S. Announces Concrete Improvements in Relations with Cuba

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.[1]

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.

===================================

[1] 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).