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White House Loosens Trade and Travel Restrictions on Cuba

Today, the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security announced significant amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Export Administration Regulations, furthering the new direction toward Cuba that President Barack Obama laid out in December 2014.

Courtesy of MercoPress

These changes, coupled with the arrangement recently announced by the Departments of State and Transportation allowing scheduled air service between the United States and Cuba, will significantly increase the ability of US citizens to travel to Cuba to directly engage with the Cuban people. Additionally, these regulations expand Cuba and Cuban nationals’ access to US financial institutions and the US dollar from Cuba, and will expand the ability for Cubans legally present in the US to earn stipends and salaries beyond living expenses.

“Today’s amendments build upon President Obama’s historic actions to improve our country's relationship with Cuba and its people. These steps not only expand opportunities for economic engagement between the Cuban people and the American business community, but will also improve the lives of millions of Cuba’s citizens.”

- US Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker

“Today’s steps build on the actions of the last 15 months as we continue to break down economic barriers, empower the Cuban people and advance their financial freedoms, and chart a new course in U.S.-Cuba relations. Since December 2014, the Treasury Department and our partners across the Administration have progressively reshaped our regulations in order to empower the Cuban people and enable economic advancements for Cubans and Americans. Today we are building on this progress by facilitating travel for additional Americans looking to engage with Cubans; allowing Cuban citizens to earn a salary in the United States; and expanding access to the U.S. financial system as well as trade and commercial opportunities.”

- US Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew

Implications on Purchase of Cuban Cigars By American Citizens

OFAC will authorize certain dealings in Cuban-origin merchandise by individuals for personal consumption while in a third-country, and to receive or obtain services from Cuba or a Cuban national that are ordinarily incident to travel and maintenance within a third country. This authorization will allow, for example, Americans traveling in Europe to purchase and consume Cuban-origin alcohol and tobacco products while abroad similar to the travel exemptions in other sanctions programs.

The amendments will take effect on March 16, 2016, when the regulations are published in the Federal Register, just ahead of President Obama's visit to Cuba on March 20 through March 22 to meet with Cuban President Raul Castro.

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