US eases Cuba travel and trade restrictions

Cold War-era foes take next step to "normalise" relations, as Washington and Havana gear up for migration talks.

    US eases Cuba travel and trade restrictions
    Rule changes will raise a limit on remittances and allow US banks to establish accounts in Cuban banks [AP]

    The United States has announced that it will ease travel and trade restrictions with Cuba immediately, implementing last month's agreement to begin normalising ties with its Cold War-era foe.

    While a US trade embargo remains in place, rule changes taking effect from Friday will ease restrictions on travel, raise a limit on remittances, allow US banks to establish accounts in Cuban banks, facilitate telecommunications services with the island and allow exports of communications devices and supporting services.

    "These changes will immediately enable the American people to provide more resources to empower the Cuban population to become less dependent upon the state-driven economy, and help facilitate our growing relationship with the Cuban people," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.

    US President Barack Obama and Cuba's President Raul Castro announced their historic agreement on December 17, opening the way for a reconciliation after more than 50 years of hostile relations.

     Inside Story: US-Cuba, foes no more

    The deal was the product of 18 months of secret talks that culminated in the exchange of imprisoned spies and release of Alan Gross, a US government contractor who had been imprisoned in Cuba for five years.

    The sudden reconciliation between the longtime foes has divided US politicians across party lines and interests, but some pro-business types have welcomed the opportunity to open up a new export market in a country so close to US shores.

    The US and Cuba are scheduled to hold migration talks in Havana next week, the next step in their normalisation process.

    Roberta Jacobson, the top US diplomat for Latin America, will lead the US in the talks and her visit will mark the highest-level trip to Cuba by a US official since 1980.

    Further down the road, Washington envisions reopening the US Embassy in Havana and carrying out high-level exchanges and visits between the governments.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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