The US has issued new rules easing restrictions on US entities doing business in Cuba. The move, which includes allowing some US business to have a "physical presence," aims to chip away at a congressional trade embargo.
The Obama administration on Friday unveiled additional rules easing restrictions on US companies doing business with Cuba in the latest step in the normalization of relations between Washington and Havana. The new rules, issued by the Treasury and Commerce Departments, add to restrictions lifted in January as part of the Obama administration's efforts to normalize relations with the island.
"These regulatory changes build on the revisions implemented earlier this year and will further ease sanctions related to travel, telecommunications and internet-based services, business operations in Cuba, and remittances. A stronger, more open US-Cuba relationship has the potential to create economic opportunities for both Americans and Cubans alike," US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said in a statement.
The regulations allow US businesses to maintain a "physical presence" on the island, including the establishment of offices and warehouses. They also permit US telecommunications and Internet-based services to operate on the island, including through joint ventures with Cuban entities.
The rules also lift some banking restrictions and eliminate the cap on remittances to the island, previously set at $2,000 (1,756 euros) per quarter. Some travel restrictions were also lifted, though the ban on US citizens traveling to the island for tourism remains in effect. Some restrictions on education, civil aviation safety, and humanitarian aid were also lifted.
The move comes as Washington and Havana seek to further normalize relations after reopening embassies in each others' countries this year. The establishment of diplomatic relations finished the first stage of what US and Cuban officials have described as a multi-stage process to overcome decades of animosity.
The US maintains a more than 50-year-old congressionally mandated trade embargo on Cuba. The Obama administration has urged the Republican-controlled Congress to lift the embargo, but failing action by lawmakers the president has used executive powers to lift portions of the embargo.