Today the State Department issued a press release announcing that the Secretary of State has finalized the removal of Cuba from the official U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, effective May 29: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2015/05/242986.htm.

Although this is an important step forward, it does not automatically eliminate any of the current U.S. sanctions.  Many of the sanctions, in fact, were “codified” (that is, converted from regulations to statute) by Congress through the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996.  Moreover, the export control restrictions for Cuba are in part maintained under an older law – the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 – that is unrelated to the requirements for countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism.  The President has authority to relax some aspects of the embargo without Congressional approval – as demonstrated by his prior liberalizing measures – but there are a number of ambiguities in the relevant statutes and it is difficult to predict how aggressive the President will be in moving forward without seeking legislation.

The situation requires careful monitoring, and companies should not assume that any existing sanctions will be quickly repealed.