US eases restrictions on business' and individuals' dealings with Cuba

Here's some good news for businesses and individuals hoping for continuing improved relations between the United States and Canada: Friday, the US Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control and the US Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security announced changes to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Export Administration Regulations.

The amendments are intended to create more economic opportunity, according to a Treasury press release, and will further President Barack Obama's approach toward Cuba, which he presented in December 2014.

US businesses, including those in Ohio, expect great opportunities to capitalize on trade with Cuba in the near future.

"President Obama's historic announcement in December 2014 charted a new course for a stronger, more open U.S.-Cuba relationship," Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew says in the news release announcing the regulations amendment. "The Treasury Department has worked to break down economic barriers in areas such as travel, trade and commerce, banking, and telecommunications. Today's action builds on this progress by enabling more scientific collaboration, grants and scholarships, people-to-people contact, and private sector growth. These steps have the potential to accelerate constructive change and unlock greater economic opportunity for Cubans and Americans."

"These amendments will create more opportunities for Cuban citizens to access American goods and services, further strengthening the ties between our two countries," US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker notes in the release. "More commercial activity between the US and Cuba benefits our people and our economies."

Among the changes, which go into effect this Monday:

Expanded and streamlined authorizations related to trade and commerce, including the direct sale of consumer goods online or through other means directly to eligible Cubans for personal use Greater opportunities for US-Cuba scientific collaboration and access to medical innovations, including permission to engage in joint medical research projects with Cuban nationals, for both commercial and noncommercial research; a clearer path for Cuban-origin pharmaceuticals to be imported to the US The extension of grants, scholarships and awards related to scientific research and religious activities to Cuba or Cuban nationals Permission for those subject to US jurisdiction to provide services related to developing, repairing, maintaining and enhancing Cuban infrastructure Removal of the monetary value limitations ($400, including $100 worth of tobacco or alcohol) on Cuban goods, instead following normal limits on Americans' importation of foreign products for personal use.