U.S. relaxes trade restrictions in Cuba

January 22nd, 2015


The United States government removed travel and trade restrictions involving Cuba on Friday, Jan. 16. These restrictions have been in place since the 1960s.


Ordinary tourism is still banned. However, the new rules enacted by President Obama will make it easier for Americans to visit the country, particularly for business purposes, according to The New York Times.


The biggest differences will come through the financial sector. Cubans living in America will  be able to send money back home more easily. American telecommunications providers and agricultural companies will also be given more leeway in doing business with Cubans, according to The New York Times.


According to NBC, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said in a news release, “Today’s announcement takes us one step closer to replacing out of date policies that were not working and puts in place a policy that helps promote political and economic freedom for the Cuban people.”


While trade will undoubtedly open up with Havana, the new rules in effect do not replace the decades old embargo. The U.S. government will still consider most trade illegal.  All travel will also have to fit into one of the government-specified categories, such as educational, religious, cultural, journalistic, humanitarian or family purposes.


According to the BBC, United Airlines announced that they would begin to fly to Cuba from both Houston and Newark. According to The New York Times, however, many analysts and experts have warned against too many quick changes throughout the country. Many of these analysts continue to fear that Cuba’s hotels and restaurants may not be able to accommodate a drastic and immediate influx of tourists.


“Where are all these people going to eat?” said John S. Kavulich II, a senior policy adviser at the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council. “Where are all these people going to stay? The excitement, the exuberance, is just out in another galaxy. You can only do what can be done.”


Obama first announced this new deal with Cuba in December. Obama used his executive powers to lighten the embargo, much to the chagrin of Congressional Republicans.


Not everyone believes opening up travel to Havana and beyond is in the best interest of the country. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) called the new rules “a windfall for the Castro regime.” He added that the recent deal “is enriching a tyrant and his regime at the expense of U.S. national interests and the Cuban people,” according to NBC News.


Rubio, a Cuban American, also sent a letter  to Lew this week, according to The New York Times.  He questioned whether or not the new rules were violating the current U.S. laws in place. He continued, sarying, “one thing that’s become even more crystal clear is that this one-sided deal is enriching a tyrant and his regime.”


The Obama administration continues to stress that restrictions over the past 50 years have not been beneficial to either country.


Editor’s Note: Information from NBC, the BBC and The New York Times was used in this report.