Trump Cuba policy reversal means few immediate changes

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 17 2017 05:39 AM

President Donald Trump announced on Friday that he was "canceling" his predecessor's move to ease sanctions on Cuba, but in practice there will be few immediate changes.

- Policy review -

Trump has ordered the Treasury and Commerce Departments to begin a policy review within 30 days to design new regulations, but that process could take several months.

No policy changes will take effect until the departments have finalized the new rules.

- Existing business deals -

The White House said the aim is to channel business away from the Cuban military monopoly GAESA, including travel-related transactions, and instead boost direct business with small, private enterprises.

However, the Treasury Department said the administration wants to ensure the policy change would not impact existing business.

That means companies may continue to do business even with Cuban military-linked firms "provided that those commercial engagements were in place prior to the issuance of the forthcoming regulations."

- Personal travel -

While tourism is still officially prohibited, since only Congress can lift the nearly 55-year-embargo still in place on Cuba, the Obama administration loosened the rules -- and enforcement -- to allow individual, "people-to-people" travel.

Trump's changes will reverse that, reverting to the previous policy of only allowing group, educational travel.

"An employee, consultant, or agent of the group must accompany each group to ensure that each traveler maintains a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities," Treasury said.

However, anyone who has already started making travel plans, and "completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation)," will be allowed to make their trip even if it happens after the new regulations are announced.

And while Treasury said the new policy does not prohibit cruise or airline travel to the island, only those in 12 authorized categories may travel there by plane or boat.

- Remittances - 

Individuals will still be allowed to send money to relatives in Cuba.

In addition, the White House said there will be an exception for Cuban-Americans who "will be able to continue to visit their family in Cuba and send them remittances."