US Eases Trade, Travel Rules for Cuba

US Eases Trade, Travel Rules for CubaUS Eases Trade, Travel Rules for Cuba

The US opened the door to easier travel and a wide range of new export opportunities with Cuba starting Friday.

Less than a month after the Cold War foes agreed to end their enmity, the commerce and treasury departments unveiled new rules Thursday permitting US citizens to visit Cuba without special permits, AP reported.

Most US travelers will still be required to go on supervised group trips, but now virtually any US company or organization can offer such trips without the paperwork and inspections that discouraged past expansion of travel to Cuba.

American companies also now will be permitted to export telephones, computers and Internet technology, and to send supplies to private Cuban firms. However, Cuban authorities have said nothing about the restrictions they might impose on US products entering the country.

The changes are the latest step in President Barack Obama’s plan to rebuild relations with Cuba after a history marred by suspicion, espionage and conflict. The new regulations come three days after US officials confirmed the release of 53 political prisoners Cuba had promised to free.

The US is now “one step closer to replacing out-of-date policies,” treasury secretary Jacob Lew said in a statement. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the new rules “immediately enable the American people to provide more resources to empower the Cuban population to become less dependent upon the state-driven economy.”

However, commercial flights between the two nations are still some time away. Before airlines offer routine service from one country to another, the two governments must agree on the terms in a treaty.