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U.S. Amends Cuba Trade Restrictions
Tuesday, 08 September 2009 00:00

Longstanding embargo remains in place, but range of interaction expands

The U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of Commerce on Tuesday issued amended regulations that will facilitate commercial contact with Cuba, without signaling an end to the longstanding U.S. embargo of that country.

On the one hand, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued the longawaited final rule that implements changes to the U.S. embargo on Cuba passed by Congress in March of this year. On the other hand, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) amended the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to implement the President's directive of April 13, 2009 aimed at making it easier for Americans with family members in Cuba to visit and send gifts to their relatives.

At Treasury, the amended OFAC regulations "expand the ability of Americans to visit close relatives in Cuba and send remittances to family members in Cuba," the agency said in a statement.

For U.S. exporters, there are two important changes.

First, the amended OFAC regulations authorize a greatly expanded range of commercial telecommunications transactions with Cuba, such as cellular and satellite communications. The new regulations contain a general license authorizing travel to Cuba related to the commercial export of telecommunications-related items that have been authorized by the Department of Commerce.

Second, the amended OFAC regulations authorize a general license that will enable employees of producers or distributors of medical or agricultural products (including food) to travel to Cuba to engage in the marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing in Cuba of agricultural commodities, medicine, or medical devices eligible under the Department of Commerce's export or re-export licensing policy to Cuba. All previous travel to Cuba was required to take place pursuant to a specific license issued by OFAC.

At Commerce, the amendments to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) authorize items normally exchanged between individuals as gifts to be included in gift parcels going to Cuba. The amendments remove the previous requirement that gift parcels be sent only to members of the donor's immediate family. Gift parcels may now be sent from an individual in the United States to an individual or an independent religious, educational, or charitable organization in Cuba. The amendment also raises the value limit for gift parcels from $400 to $800, while increasing the number of parcels that an individual donor may send each month.

The EAR amendments also remove the previous 44-pound limit on personal baggage that had applied to travelers to Cuba. The new rules create a License Exception that authorizes exports and re-exports to Cuba of donated personal communications devices such as mobile phone systems, computers and software, satellite receivers and digital cameras.

Journal of Commerce Online, 9/08/09