President Trump announced June 16 a number of changes in U.S. policy toward Cuba. A Trump administration official said these changes will allow business-to-business engagement but are designed to ensure that those engagements do not benefit the Cuban military. The changes will not take effect until the departments of Commerce and the Treasury have finalized amendments to the Export Administration Regulations and the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, respectively, which could take several months.
The new policy will prohibit direct financial transactions with the Cuban military, intelligence, and security services and entities that they control, including Grupo de Administración Empresarial, while allowing U.S. individuals and entities to develop economic ties to Cuba’s private small business sector. The State Department will be publishing a list of entities with which direct transactions generally will not be permitted. However, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control states that any Cuba-related commercial engagement that includes direct transactions with entities related to the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services that may be implicated by the new policy will be permitted provided that those engagements were in place prior to the issuance of the forthcoming regulations.
The White House fact sheet states that the new policy reaffirms the statutory U.S. trade embargo of Cuba and opposes calls in the United Nations and other international forums for its termination. It also enhances travel restrictions, including ending individual people-to-people travel, to improve the statutory ban on U.S. tourism to Cuba.
According to the fact sheet, the policy clarifies that any further improvements in the U.S.-Cuba relationship “will depend entirely on the Cuban government’s willingness to improve the lives of the Cuban people, including through promoting the rule of law, respecting human rights, and taking concrete steps to foster political and economic freedoms.”