The Administration’s recent announcement that it will remove Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism will have no immediate impact as a practical matter on trade with Cuba because the existing Cuban Assets Control Regulations are not affected. The Cuban Assets Control Regulations effectively trump for the private sector all other restrictions on Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The Cuban Assets Control Regulations prohibit persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States from, among other things, engaging in any transactions involving property in which Cuba or a Cuban national has or at any time since 1963 has had an interest of any nature whatsoever. The only exceptions are those expressly spelled out in the Regulations or permitted under express exceptions or OFAC-issued general or specific licenses.
While the Cuban Assets Control Regulations contain many exceptions from their prohibitions and OFAC has been liberal in recent years in issuing licenses for otherwise prohibited activity, those wishing to do business with or engage in other activities relating to Cuba, such as travel, will still have to work within the Cuban Assets Control Regulations.
Removal of Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism will, therefore, in and of itself have an impact only on restrictions applicable to other activities. These appear to be confined largely to things the U.S. government may or may not do, such as providing foreign aid or economic assistance, making arms sales or sales of military-related goods or services, dealing with international financial institutions as they relate to Cuba, dealing with claims against Cuba in U.S. courts, regulating the tax treatment of income earned from Cuban-related activities, dealing with customs matters relating to duties on goods imported from Cuba and other things of an official or governmental nature.
Cuba may not be a terrorist-supporting country. But supporter or not, it is still something of a pariah.