The Obama administration has announced that it is eliminating a $100 limit on the value of Cuban rum and cigars that American travelers can bring back from the island. The administration is also lifting limits on cargo ship travel between the U.S. and Cuba and easing U.S. and Cuban researchers' ability to conduct joint medical research. The measures are contained in a new round of regulatory changes meant to ease U.S. trade with Cuba. The Obama administration has now made six sets of changes loosening the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba with the hope that the normalization of relations with the island will not be reversed by a future administration. This round is expected to be the last before President Obama leaves office.
Challenges remain — and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights — but I believe that engagement is the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values.Obama, in a statement announcing the changes
Rum and cigar production is entirely government-run under Cuba's centrally planned communist economy. While the first regulatory changes focused narrowly on helping Cuba's growing private sector, Friday's new rules are almost entirely aimed at similarly state-run industries including shipping and medical products. The package of regulatory changes announced Friday also allows cargo ships to visit U.S. ports directly after docking in Cuba. They had been barred from U.S. ports for 180 days after visiting Cuba. Cuba blamed that measure for harming its ability to import and export and dampening hopes that a new military-run port in the city of Mariel could serve as a major link in the regional cargo shipping system. A senior Obama administration official said the new regulations' focus on Cuban state enterprise should not be interpreted as a shift away from helping ordinary Cubans.
We have designed the policy very much to have the maximum benefit to the Cuban people, broadly, but in so doing we are not restricting engagement with the Cuban state ... The Cuban people continue to be at the center of everything we're doing.Senior Obama administration official