U.S. President Obama took further steps today to loosen U.S. embargo rules against Cuba.
The Obama administration announced a new round of executive actions designed to increase trade and travel with the communist island. And this is the one many Americans have been waiting for — no more Cuba-specific restrictions on the island’s famed rum and cigars for personal use.
The previous limit restricted travelers to a combined value of $100 in rum and cigars, for personal use only.
The new regulations issued by the U.S. Treasury Department will make it easier for U.S. companies to import Cuban-made pharmaceuticals, U.S. agricultural companies to sell their products to the island and Cubans to purchase U.S.-made goods online.
The changes follow a series of steps taken since President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro announced on Dec. 17, 2014, that the Cold War foes would normalize relations.
“The Treasury Department has worked to break down economic barriers in areas such as travel, trade and commerce, banking, and telecommunications,” Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said. “Today’s action builds on this progress by enabling more scientific collaboration, grants and scholarships, people-to-people contact, and private sector growth.”
The most noticeable change for most Americans, however, is the removal of the five-decade ban on importing Cuban rum and cigars. The Obama administration partially lifted that ban already, allowing Americans traveling directly to Cuba to come back home with up to $100 in rum and cigars in their carry-on luggage. Now, that monetary restriction is removed and U.S. citizens can come back with as much tobacco and alcohol made in Cuba in their checked baggage (for personal use only). However, beyond $800 in value, U.S. duties may be applied to imported Cuba cigar imports as they would with any other important tobacco product.
Here’s part of the official notice:
Among other things, these amendments authorize certain transactions related to Cuban-origin pharmaceuticals and joint medical research; add, expand, and clarify authorizations relating to trade and commerce; authorize certain civil aviation safety-related services; further facilitate authorized travel to Cuba; and expand the authorizations for grants and humanitarian-related services designed to directly benefit the Cuban people. These amendments also implement certain technical and conforming changes. OFAC is making these amendments in support of the process of normalizing bilateral relations with Cuba.