“Today, I approved a Presidential Policy Directive that takes another major step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with Cuba,” Barack Obama announced today and added, “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.”
The decision arrived accompanied by a new package of measures that aims to expand the travel and commercial exchange possibilities between the two countries, as well as in other collaboration areas. The measures, which will come into force next Monday October 17, involve the Departments of the Treasury and of Commerce, and include the possibility for U.S. citizens to be able to import unlimited amounts of Cuban rum and cigars for personal use, as part of their billed luggage.
Another relevant measure is the lifting of the restriction that prevented foreign ships that had touched Cuban port to enter U.S. territory to pick up freight or to unload in a period of 180 days.
Moreover, they facilitate carrying out joint medical research projects by U.S. and Cuban citizens, as well as the possibility that medicines produced in Cuba be marketed in the United States after obtaining approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In terms of agriculture, the United States will be able to export to Cuba items like pesticides or tractors, for whose transactions it will no longer be necessary to pay in cash or in advance.
U.S. citizens will also be able to offer services related to development, repair and maintenance of infrastructures on the island, as well as others related with civil aviation security.
Subsidies, grants, scholarships and prizes related to scientific research and religious activities were also authorized, while the export of certain consumer goods marketed online or through other means directly to Cuban citizens for their personal use will also be allowed.
In a press release, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew indicated that the new regulations will facilitate people-to-people contact and private sector growth, and added that “these steps have the potential to accelerate constructive change and unlock greater economic opportunity for Cubans and Americans.”
“Already, we’re seeing what the United States and Cuba can accomplish when we put aside the past and work to build a brighter future,” said this morning Ambassador Susan E. Rice, President Obama’s National Security Advisor, during his speech on a new presidential directive on Cuba.
What remains to be seen now is if the new package announced achieves an extensive and expeditious application or if its reach is limited as has happened with previously established measures. In any case, as President Obama pointed out in his statement, despite the differences and challenges that persist in the process of normalization of relations between both countries, “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.”