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Combing Through Today’s Announcement On New Cuba Regulations

David Gomez

#CubaNow

Jan 26, 2016

Friends,

In a “giant step” for U.S.-Cuba relations, the Treasury and Commerce Departments today issued a joint statement on new rules going into effect tomorrow that will greatly expand trade and travel with the Island. While the full effects of these regulations remain to be seen and will depend greatly on the Cuban government’s reciprocation, it’s nonetheless another positive development aimed at maximizing our ability to help and build ties with the Cuban people.

Some highlights of the new regulations:

-U.S. banks will be allowed to provide direct financing for exports of non-agricultural commodities, rather than paying in advance in cash or shipping through a third country. Financing of agricultural exports, however, is still prohibited under embargo law.

-A case-by-case licensing policy will allow exports to state-owned entities as long as they “provide goods and services to the Cuban people” and don’t primarily benefit the Cuban state. As USA Today’s Alan Gomez points out, “In a country where the government owns and controls nearly ever aspect of the economy, the new rules could provide many more openings for U.S. businesses by allowing trade for agricultural production, education, food processing, disaster preparedness, public health, sanitation, residential construction, public transportation, energy production and water supplies.”

-Changes to travel regulations will make it easier to film movies, television, and music. Americans will also now be able to organize events in Cuba, whereas previously they were only authorized to attend.

-The Commerce Department will “generally approve license applications for exports and reexports of telecommunications items that would improve communications to, from, and among the Cuban people.”

-Additional air carrier regulations “will make it easier to implement a new civil aviation agreement reached between the United States and Cuba in December[.]” These will include amendments to allow “blocked space, code-sharing and leasing arrangements with Cuban airlines.”

As Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in today’s statement, these regulatory changes are intended to further “support greater economic independence and increased prosperity for the Cuban people.” But while they’re a major leap forward, there is only so much the administration can do on its own. The true potential of U.S-Cuba relations will ultimately only be realized when Congress acts to lift the failed embargo—a process that those in the Cuban government can only help by implementing reforms that best serve the interests of the Cuban people.

Thank you for your support,

David Gomez
Political Director, #CubaNow