HAVANA TIMES — In what could be his last effort to warm relations with Cuba, President Obama today announced his approval of new regulations to facilitate business and trade.
One of the most significant actions was to rescind the ban on receiving cargo ships in US ports for six months after having docked in Cuba. This provision could make much more viable the deep water port that the Castro government built with Brazilian funding at Mariel west of Havana.
Likewise, restrictions on the amount of rum and cigars, two important Cuban exports, will be lifted as of Monday, October 17th. The same goes for other products. Duties as normally applied to imports from other countries will still have to be paid but the quantity allowed for personal use will lose its ceiling.
During the last period imports from Cuba by travelers was limited to a value of $400 including $100 of rum and/or cigars.
The decision comes less than a month before the US elections with the two candidates differing on the measures taken by Obama. Hillary Clinton is in favor of the administration policy and Donald Trump is now opposed until Cuba meets new demands.
Another area of interest is that now US institutions and companies and Cuba will be able to carry out joint medical research.
“The new rules also expand the opportunities for Cubans to receive grants and scholarships to study in the United States, streamline some previous trade authorizations and allow U.S. nationals to provide services to Cuba or Cuban nationals related to developing, repairing, maintaining and enhancing Cuban infrastructure in order to directly benefit the Cuban people,” noted the Miami Herald.
“These amendments will create more opportunities for Cuban citizens to access American goods and services, further strengthening the ties between our two countries,” said US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “More commercial activity between the US and Cuba benefits our people and our economies.”
Read the full statement from President Obama:
Statement by the President on the Presidential Policy Directive on Cuba
Today, I approved a Presidential Policy Directive that takes another major step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with Cuba. This Directive takes a comprehensive and whole-of-government approach to promote engagement with the Cuban government and people, and make our opening to Cuba irreversible.
In December 2014, following more than 50 years of failed policy, I announced that the United States would begin a process of normalizing relations with Cuba. Since then, we’ve worked with the people and the government of Cuba to do exactly that – re-establishing diplomatic relations, opening embassies, expanding travel and commerce, and launching initiatives to help our people cooperate and innovate. This new directive consolidates and builds upon the changes we’ve already made, promotes transparency by being clear about our policy and intentions, and encourages further engagement between our countries and our people.
Consistent with this approach, the Departments of Treasury and Commerce issued further regulatory changes today, building on the progress made over the last two years, to continue to facilitate more interaction between the Cuban and American people, including through travel and commercial opportunities, and more access to information. This follows previous changes that helped facilitate interconnectivity between our peoples, and to promote economic reforms on the island by providing access to the dollar in international transactions. These changes are representative of the progress I saw firsthand when I visited Havana to personally extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. The quick flight over 90 miles of blue water belied the real barriers of the past that were crossed that day, but my interactions with everyday Cubans told a promising story of neighbors working to build broader ties of cooperation across the Americas.
Challenges remain – and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights – but I believe that engagement is the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values. The progress of the last two years, bolstered by today’s action, should remind the world of what’s possible when we look to the future together.