By the Blouin News Business staff

U.S. warming up to Cuba by easing restrictions

by in Americas, U.S..

Havana, Cuba. (Source: Trygve Berget/flickr)

Havana, Cuba. (Source: Trygve Berget/flickr)

The U.S. announced new measures on Tuesday that will further ease trade and travel with Cuba. While regular tourism and trade need the Congressional embargo against Cuba to be lifted (and the Republicans in control insist that won’t happen under Obama’s presidency), these new executive actions are nevertheless quite significant.

Case in point: Washington eliminated a ban on Cuba’s access to the international banking system. A.P. reports:

U.S. banks will be allowed to process Cuban transactions that pass through the U.S. financial system. Restrictions on those activities had crippled Cuba’s ability to trade with third countries and became a major hindrance to the U.S. attempt to normalize relations with Cuba. Cuban citizens will also be able to open U.S. bank accounts and use them to send remittances back home.

Washington has also authorized the exports of goods to Cuba and investment deals with Cuban state-owned enterprises, although the pace of business transactions involving the government is slow in the island. But an extensive foundation is being laid – Washington will soon award the first routes for commercial flights between the U.S. and Cuba, and it has already approved cruises and ferries between the two countries. U.S. approval for American hotel chains to operate in Cuba is next.

In another change, Americans can now travel alone to Cuba for educational, “people-to-people” experiences, without having to get the State Department’s approval. Even direct mail service between the two countries will start a pilot resumption on Wednesday.

Blouin News first reported on the “extraordinary opportunities” for American firms in Cuba early last January. (Also check out our post on “baseball diplomacy,” president Obama’s upcoming historic visit to Cuba.) Congress doesn’t have to like the Castros, but they won’t be around forever, and it should lift the embargo for the sake of U.S. firms.