On 17 December 2014, the United States and Cuba announced that, following a prisoner-exchange, the two countries would re-establish diplomatic relations. As a result, President Obama announced that the United States will ease certain aspects of the existing US embargo on Cuba. However, the complete lifting of the embargo is likely to require an act of Congress, and the limited changes will take place at a later date under the licensing authority of the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”).
- Although the full details of the changes to the US embargo on Cuba are not yet known, several changes have been announced, including the following:
- Travellers to Cuba will be able to use credit and debit cards issued by US financial institutions;
- US financial institutions will be permitted to open correspondent accounts at Cuban financial institutions but only for certain authorised transactions;
- Previously blocked accounts at US banks of Cuban nationals who have relocated outside of Cuba will be unblocked;
- A wider variety of remittance payments and donations will be permitted, and remittance forwarders will no longer require a specific license to send authorised remittances to Cuba;
- New categories of items will be authorised for export from the United States to Cuba, including building materials for private residents, goods for private sector entrepreneurs, agricultural equipment for small farmers and communications devices and related software;
- A wider variety of travel will be authorised under a general license, but tourism will not be included;
- The extraterritorial restrictions of the embargo on Cuba will be scaled back to allow US-owned or –controlled entities in third countries to provide services to and engage in financial transactions with individual Cuban nationals in third countries; and
- US persons will be authorised to participate in third-country professional meetings and conferences related to Cuba.
The US has said that other changes are actively under consideration, including a review of whether Cuba should be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.