Obama eases more restrictions on Cuban travel, trade

The Obama administration announced regulatory changes Tuesday to further ease travel and trade restrictions in Cuba.

Starting Wednesday, the Treasury and Commerce departments said U.S. airlines will be authorized to engage with Cuban ones to facilitate trade; restrictions on payment and financing terms for authorized exports and re-exports to Cuba will be removed; a case-by-case licensing policy for exports and re-exports will be established; and certain types of travel will be added to existing authorized travel categories.

Tourist activities, however, remain prohibited, a senior administration official told reporters Tuesday.  

The changes to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Export Administration Regulations aim to further the president’s 2014 call for more normalized relations with Havana.

Under the new regulations, professional media or artistic productions will be allowed to travel to Cuba to film or produce a movie, television show, music video or other informational material, and certain personnel operating or servicing a vessel or aircraft will be allowed to stay in Cuba to continue their work.

Travel will also be authorized to those organizing a professional meeting, conference, public performance, clinic, workshop or athletic competition, and the list of authorized humanitarian projects will be expanded to include disaster preparedness and response.

In removing financing restrictions for authorized exports and re-exports, except agricultural commodities and agricultural items, the administration said U.S. depository institutions will be authorized to provide financing. Financing terms now are restricted to cash-in-advance or third-country financing.

As for exports and re-exports, the agencies said license applications will be approved for commodities and software going to human rights organizations and U.S. news bureaus in Cuba.

Telecommunication items to improve communications to, from and among the Cuban people; agricultural items like insecticides, pesticides and herbicides; and items necessary to ensure the safety of civil aviation and commercial aircrafts engaged in international transports will also be approved.

The administration said a case-by-case licensing policy will be created for exports and re-exports of items needed to meet the needs of the Cuban people.

“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,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a news release.

“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.”