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  October 14th, 2016 | Written by

BREAKING NEWS: Further Amendments to Cuba Sanctions Regulations

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  • A new course for a stronger, more open U.S.-Cuba relationship.
  • Amendments will create more opportunities for Cuban citizens to access U.S. goods and services.
  • OFAC amendment minimizes the circumstances in which an export to Cuba requires additional licensing.

The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) have issued new amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR). These amendments help create more economic opportunity for Cubans and Americans, further implementing the direction toward Cuba that President Obama laid out in December 2014. The changes will take effect on October 17, 2016, when the regulations are published in the Federal Register.

“President Obama’s historic announcement in December 2014 charted a new course for a stronger, more open U.S.-Cuba relationship,” said Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew. “The Treasury Department has worked to break down economic barriers in areas such as travel, trade and commerce, banking, and telecommunications. Today’s action builds on this progress by enabling more scientific collaboration, grants and scholarships, people-to-people contact, and private sector growth. These steps have the potential to accelerate constructive change and unlock greater economic opportunity for Cubans and Americans.”

“These amendments will create more opportunities for Cuban citizens to access American goods and services, further strengthening the ties between our two countries,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “More commercial activity between the U.S. and Cuba benefits our people and our economies.”

The changes are intended to expand opportunities for scientific collaboration by authorizing certain transactions related to Cuban-origin pharmaceuticals and joint medical research; improve living conditions for Cubans by expanding existing authorizations for grants and humanitarian-related services; increase people-to-people contact in Cuba by facilitating authorized travel and commerce; and bolster trade and commercial opportunities by expanding and streamlining authorizations processes.

With regard to health-related transactions, OFAC has issued a new authorization allowing U.S. persons to engage in joint medical research projects with Cuban nationals. An additional authorization allows the importation into the U.S., of FDA-approved Cuban-origin pharmaceuticals.

On the humanitarian front, OFAC expanded the authorization for grants, scholarships, and awards to Cuba or Cuban nationals to include grants, scholarships, and awards related to scientific research and religious activities. OFAC also is added an authorization that allows U.S. persons to provide services to Cuba related to developing certain Cuban infrastructure to directly benefit the Cuban people.

OFAC also removed the monetary value limitations on what authorized travelers may import from Cuba into the U.S., including the value limitation on alcohol and tobacco products. Cuban-origin goods must be imported for personal use, and limits on duty and tax exemptions will apply.

With regard to export-related transactions, OFAC amended its general license to eliminate references to “100 percent U.S.-origin items.” This minimizes the circumstances in which an export or reexport requires additional licensing by OFAC.

OFAC added an authorization that allows the importation into the U.S. of items that were previously exported or reexported to Cuba pursuant to authorization. This also permits U.S. persons to service and repair such items.

OFAC also waived the restriction prohibiting foreign vessels from entering a U.S. port for loading or unloading freight for 180 days after calling on a Cuban port for trade purposes. BIS will generally authorize air cargo to transit Cuba, complementing an existing general authorization for cargo transiting Cuba aboard vessels.

“This is further progress towards normalized relations that will benefit both the American and Cuban people,” said Brian P. McGuire, president and CEO of Associated Equipment Distributors (AED), a trade association. “But more has to happen. It’s time for Congress to publicly and comprehensively review our nation’s Cuba policy, which seems out of step with geopolitical realities, public opinion, and America’s economic interests. Until Congress acts to lift the embargo, U.S. equipment distributors and manufacturers and other businesses cannot take advantage of opportunities to help upgrade Cuba’s infrastructure and help the Cuban people build a better future.”