A New Approach for Trade and Travel Relations with Cuba
Last month, the President announced a new approach for relations with Cuba. Today, as part of that plan, the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Treasury eased restrictions for numerous categories of U.S. travel and trade with Cuba. Several of the categories include:
• journalistic activity;
• certain professional research, meetings, and educational activities;
• clinics, workshops, and competitions;
• exportation, importation, of information or information materials; and,
• certain other authorized export transactions.
In addition to the above normalization efforts, U.S. travelers are also no longer faced with spending restrictions. U.S. financial institutions can now open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions, and the use of U.S. debit and credit cards is no longer prohibited. Travel agents and airlines are also authorized to facilitate travel to Cuba.
These changes could signify new opportunities for Louisiana businesses. New general licenses will facilitate increased trade with Cuba in an effort to lessen the burden on the Cuban people. The commercial export of certain items will now be authorized. This will include the commercial sale of certain consumer communications devices and agricultural commodities. Exports aimed at improving living conditions and supporting independent economic activity is also authorized. The U.S. Department of Commerce will set forth a general policy of approval for applications to export items necessary for the environmental protection or enhancement of U.S. and international air and water quality or coastlines (including through energy efficiency). Further, the regulatory interpretation of “cash in advance” is being redefined from “cash before shipment” to “cash before transfer of title to, and control of,” the exported items to allow expanded financing of authorized trade with Cuba.
Certain micro-financing projects and entrepreneurial and business training, such as for private business and agricultural operations, will also be authorized. The State Department also published an authorized-commercial-imports list of certain independent Cuban entrepreneur-produced goods and services. An expanded general license will authorize Cuba-related transactions by employees, grantees, and contractors of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain international organizations in their official capacities.
The normalization will also have third-country effects. For the first time since the embargo, a general license will authorize foreign vessels to enter the United States after engaging in certain trade with Cuba.
The ease does not necessarily mean that U.S. citizens are free to travel the island on their own. The laws still prohibit tourism. Travelers will be required to maintain documentation as it is a violation of U.S. law to disregard the categories. The distinction is important and the White House has suggested that it might impose audits. This is a huge step for development in Cuba, and Louisiana business owners could have a great impact. However, it is important to understand the applicable regulations to avoid harming themselves in the process.