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USA*Engage and NFTC Applaud “New Day for U.S. Cuba Relations”
Date: 1/15/2015
Written By: Nicole L’Esperance, The Fratelli Group for NFTC, (202) 822-9491

Groups Highlight Provisions of Interest to U.S. Businesses
Washington, DC – USA*Engage and National Foreign Trade Council today welcomed the final rules published by the Commerce and Treasury Departments implementing a number of the changes that President Obama announced on December 17 with respect to U.S. Cuba policy.

"These regulations solidify a fundamental change in U.S. Cuba policy," noted USA*Engage Vice President Richard Sawaya. "It is to be hoped that Congress will support the Administration's initiative, which augurs well for the future of U.S. relations with Cuba and throughout the region."

"These rules signal a new day for U.S. Cuba relations. They will permit U.S. businesses to begin getting to know Cuba and also enable businesses and private citizens to engage directly with the Cuban people," said NFTC Vice President for Global Trade Issues Jake Colvin. "We look forward to working with the Obama Administration, Congress, the U.S. business community and the Cuban people to begin to reestablish the commercial relationship over the months and years to come."

NFTC and USA*Engage highlighted several provisions of the regulations announced by Treasury and Commerce, which are particularly relevant to U.S. businesses:

Treasury

1. Travel to Cuba for authorized purposes without the need for case-by-case specific licensing – Arguably the change with the most meaningful near-term impact.

Combined with the regulation to permit the use of credit and debit cards in Cuba, this will facilitate the entry of additional thousands of Americans into Cuba for "purposeful" travel and permit businesses and entrepreneurs to begin exploring Cuba.

2. Credit and debit cards, per diem, and importation of certain goods and services.

The decision by OFAC also to amend section 515.560 to eliminate the per diem limitation on authorized travelers' spending in Cuba, and to permit authorized travelers to import no more than $400 worth of goods from Cuba (including up to $100 in alcohol or tobacco products) is significant from a licensing perspective, as it demonstrates the ability of the President to authorize imports from Cuba. Permitting credit card use will also facilitate day-to-day transactions for U.S. travelers, including businesses, to Cuba.

3. Micro-financing, business, and commercial import activities.

These amendments permit microfinancing and will enable U.S. entities to support entrepreneurs and businesses in Cuba. OFAC is adding new section 515.582 to authorize commercial imports of certain specified goods and services produced by independent Cuban entrepreneurs based on a list to be determined by the State Department. That is a potentially meaningful license and could help Cubans engage directly in the American marketplace.

4. Telecommunications.

OFAC will generally authorize transactions that establish mechanisms to provide commercial telecommunications services linking third countries and Cuba and in Cuba. OFAC is amending section 515.578 to authorize persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to provide additional services incident to Internet-based communications and related to certain exportations and reexportations of communications items.

5. Certain transactions with Cuban nationals located outside of Cuba.

OFAC is adding new section 515.585 to authorize U.S.-owned or -controlled entities in third countries to provide, with some limitations, goods and services to Cuban nationals in third countries. OFAC is amending section 515.505 to unblock accounts of Cuban nationals who have permanently relocated outside of Cuba, among other provisions. This has been a major pain point for banks, and is welcome news.

6. Insurance.

OFAC is adding new section 515.580 to authorize insurance companies to offer global insurance policies that cover third-country nationals traveling to Cuba.

7. Shipping.

OFAC is amending section 515.550 to authorize foreign vessels to enter the United States after engaging in certain trade with Cuba.

Commerce

Commerce is authorizing the export of commercially sold or donated:
• Building materials, equipment, and tools for use by the private sector
• Tools and equipment for private sector agricultural activity; and Tools, equipment, supplies and instruments for use by private sector entrepreneurs – this will allow the export of such items to private sector entrepreneurs, such as auto mechanics, barbers and hairstylists and restaurateurs.
• Authorizes the export and reexport to Cuba of certain donated items for use in scientific, archaeological, cultural, ecological, educational, historic preservation or sporting activities.
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About USA*Engage
USA*Engage (www.usaengage.org) is a coalition of small and large businesses, agriculture groups and trade associations working to seek alternatives to the proliferation of unilateral U.S. foreign policy sanctions and to promote the benefits of U.S. engagement abroad. Established in 1997 and organized under the National Foreign Trade Council (www.nftc.org), USA*Engage leads a campaign to inform policymakers, opinion leaders, and the public about the counterproductive nature of unilateral sanctions, the importance of exports and overseas investment for American competitiveness and jobs, and the role of American companies in promoting human rights and democracy worldwide.

About NFTC
The National Foreign Trade Council (www.nftc.org) is a leading business organization advocating an open, rules-based global trading system. Founded in 1914 by a broad-based group of American companies, the NFTC now serves hundreds of member companies through its offices in Washington and New York. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.