Obama lifts more restrictions on U.S. trade, travel with Cuba
WASHINGTON — Hoping to cement a major element of his foreign policy legacy, President Barack Obama on Friday lifted additional restrictions on U.S. trade and travel with Cuba, including an end to strict limits on the Cuban rum and cigars an American visitor can take home.
The measures mark the latest steps by the Obama administration to restore diplomatic and economic ties with the island nation after more than half a century of hostility. Obama and President Raul Castro announced the diplomatic opening on Dec. 17, 2014.
Susan Rice, Obama’s national security adviser, said the administration has gone as far as it can to normalize relations while a U.S. trade embargo stays in place.
Only Congress can lift the trade embargo, imposed in 1960 against Cuba’s then-new communist government. Washington severed diplomatic ties with Havana the following year.
Rice urged Congress to end the embargo, but that is unlikely given opposition from several Republicans.
“End this outdated burden on the Cuban people,” Rice said at the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington.
The new regulations lift the cap on how much alcohol, tobacco and other Cuban merchandise an American visitor can take home. Until now, a U.S. citizen could import only $100 worth of alcohol and tobacco. Now the same duties used for other countries will apply to Cuban items.
The new rules also make it easier for U.S. and Cuban researchers to conduct joint medical investigations and for Cuba to sell approved pharmaceutical products in the U.S. market.
In addition, cargo ships will be allowed to dock at U.S. ports directly after visiting Cuba, ending a 180-day ban between those ports of call.
Cuban liquor at a bar in Havana. A cap on how much alcohol an American visitor to Cuba can take home was lifted.