Obama lifts more re­stric­tions on U.S. trade, travel with Cuba

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Tracy Wilkin­son tracy.wilkin­son@la­times.com

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.

DES­MOND BOY­LAN/AP

Cuban liquor at a bar in Ha­vana. A cap on how much al­co­hol an Amer­i­can vis­i­tor to Cuba can take home was lifted.

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