MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – More historic changes are coming to U.S./Cuba relations.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Department of Commerce announced further amendments to the country’s Cuba sanction regulations.
The federal departments said the changes will offer “expanded opportunities for scientific collaboration and access to medical innovations.”
One change will U.S. citizens to engage in joint medical research projects, both commercial and non-commercial, with Cuban nationals.
Another change will allow Cuban pharmaceuticals to be marketed and sold in the U.S. after they have received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Also, U.S. citizens involved in the above mentioned changes will now be allowed to open and maintain bank accounts in Cuba “for use in conducting the authorized business,” accoring to the treasury officials.
“These amendments will create more opportunities for Cuban citizens to access American goods and services, further strengthening the ties between our two countries,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker in a statement. “More commercial activity between the U.S. and Cuba benefits our people and our economies.”
Also on Friday, the Obama administration announced the lifting limits on cargo ship travel between the U.S. and Cuba.
The package of regulatory changes 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.
Another regulatory change announced was the elimination of the $100 limit on the value of Cuban rum and cigars that American travelers can bring back from the island.
Cuban rum and cigars will now be subject to the same duties as alcohol and tobacco from other countries, meaning most travelers will be able to bring back as many as 100 cigars and several bottles of rum. Because high-end Cuban cigars can sell for more than $100 apiece outside Cuba, every U.S. traveler can now legally bring back many thousands of dollars of Cuban products, potentially generating hundreds of millions of dollars in new annual revenue for the Cuban state. The previous limit restricted travelers to a combined value of $100 in rum and cigars, although enforcement of the limit notably declined after President Barack Obama declared detente with Cuba in December 2014.
Rum and cigar production is entirely government-run under Cuba’s centrally planned communist economy.
Another change coming is that the commerce department will now all the sale certain consumer goods that are sold online, or through other means, to eligible Cuba nationals for their personal use.
Americans will now be allowed to provide services to Cuba or Cuban nationals in developing, repairing, maintaining and enhancing certain Cuban infrastructure in order to directly benefit the Cuban people.
The changes will take effect on October 17, 2016, when the regulations are published in the Federal Register.
More than 160,000 American travelers visited Cuba last year and that figure is expected to double this year.
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