The Obama administration’s attempt to normalize relations with Cuba after decades of a U.S. policy of isolation comes with many steps, many of which will take time and further negotiation. In general, it seeks to ease regulations that limit commerce and travel flows, while maintaining pressure for improved human rights and democracy. Here are highlights of what the White House plans:
_ Establish an embassy in Havana.
_ Travel to Cuba is limited by how much an American can spend in Cuba and for what purpose a person can travel. The administration wants to ease for travel on a general license _ which does not require advance notification to the U.S. government _ for people who fit in 12 categories currently allowed for travel to Cuba. Changes to those categories requires congressional action. Travel to Cuba for tourist activities, will continue to be prohibited.
_ Increase to $400, the value of goods that Americans can bring from Cuba on return to the U.S. That total would include no more than $100 of tobacco and alcohol combined, and those can only be for personal, not commercial, use.
_ Raise limits on remittances to Cuba from $500 to $2,000 and eliminate requirements that businesses that forward the remittances, many of them based in Miami, have a license. (Remittances to certain Communist officials are excluded.) Remittances for humanitarian projects, support of the Cuban people and development of private businesses in Cuba will have no amount limits.
_ Expand list of goods authorized for export to Cuba, including materials for private residential construction, for use by private sector Cuban entrepreneurs and agricultural equipment for small farms.
_ Allow U.S. financial institutions to open corresponding accounts at Cuban financial institutions.
_ Allow U.S. credit and debit cards to be used by travelers in Cuba.
_ Authorize the commercial export of certain communications equipment and services to expand Cuban Internet access, now at 5 percent penetration, and to lower the cost of telecommunications.
_ Allow third-party countries to trade and transact with Cuba, unblock accounts of Cuban nationals who have located outside Cuba, allow U.S. citizens to participate in third-country professional meetings and conferences on Cuba. Also, allow foreign vessels to enter the U.S. after engaging in humanitarian trade with Cuba.
_ Require Secretary of State John Kerry to review and report to the president in six months the U.S. designation of Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism. That designation dates to 1982.