New regulations on Cuba enter into force today, only 29 days after President Obama promised them. The liberalized provisions focus on support for private sector actors in Cuba.
As we described here, the President announced on December 17, 2014 that his administration would release regulations liberalizing the rules on travel, financial services, remittances, and other areas. Today those provisions are a reality. Both the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Treasury issued regulations today. The Commerce Federal Register notice is available here; OFAC’s notice is available here.
As a result, the United States is now “one step closer to replacing out-of-date policies” on Cuba, said Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew. Specifically, the new regulations include these provisions:
(1) Building materials, equipment, and tools for use by the private sector;
(2) Tools and equipment for private sector agricultural activity; or
(3) Tools, equipment, supplies, and instruments for use by private sector entrepreneurs.
Some critics in Congress have questioned the legality of the President’s actions, citing the myriad statutes that constitute the Cuban embargo (including things like the Trading with the Enemy Act, the LIBERTAD Act, and the Cuban Democracy Act). But all the new provisions published today appear carefully crafted to stay within the President’s powers, and not to fall afoul of those many statutory boundaries of the decades-old embargo. For more fundamental change, we must await legislative action.