President Barack Obama recently signed a Presidential Policy Directive that encourages further engagement between the United States and Cuba and the people of our two countries. He called the Directive “another major step forward in our efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.”
This process of normalizing relations with Cuba began under President Obama in December 2014. Since then, the United States has re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba, re-opened its embassy in Havana, facilitated authorized travel, and launched initiatives to help cooperation and innovation between the United States and Cuba.
In support of the President’s policy of engagement with Cuba, the Departments of Treasury and Commerce have issued six sets of regulatory changes to facilitate additional authorized interactions between the Cuban and American people, including through authorized travel and commercial opportunities, and greater access to information.
The newest set of regulatory amendments that took effect on October 17 allow Cuban and U.S. institutions to engage in joint medical research and authorize greater collaboration on the testing and commercializing Cuban drugs in the United States, meaning that Americans will increasingly benefit from Cuban pharmaceutical discoveries. In addition, the Commerce Department rules now authorize online sales of certain consumer goods to Cubans for personal use under a license exception.
“These amendments,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, “will create more opportunities for Cuban citizens to access American goods and services, further strengthening the ties between our two countries.”
Even as ties with Cuba are expanded, President Obama acknowledged that “challenges remain – and very real differences between our governments persist on issues of democracy and human rights.” But engagement, he said, remains “the best way to address those differences and make progress on behalf of our interests and values.”