Cuba: First Steps Toward Market Access

Jan 16, 2015
WASHINGTON, DC -- Following President Obama's announcement last month that the U.S. would begin to re-engage in trade, travel, and diplomatic relations with Cuba, U.S. policy changes that alter previous travel and trade regulations were announced by the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) yesterday and published today in the Federal Register.  These changes go into effect immediately.
On the trade front, OFAC announced that the interpretation of "cash in advance" would revert to the pre-2005 definition, meaning "cash before transfer of title or control."  This new interpretation is an important, positive move, and has long been advocated by the USA Rice Federation.  Another new and positive regulatory change will allow U.S. financial institutions to open accounts at Cuban banks to facilitate transactions.
"Up until now, U.S. government restrictions have limited the ability of the U.S. industry to compete in Cuba," said USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward.  "Foreign competitors, have stepped in since they can provide credit and face none of the barriers to trade that we have had imposed on us."
Tourist travel with Cuba remains prohibited, but new travel policies include expanded categories under which U.S. citizens can travel to Cuba and have eliminated the need to obtain a license from OFAC prior to travel.  For instance, professional research and meetings travel now falls under a general license. U.S. citizens may also use their debit or credit cards in Cuba, and airlines may operate flights to and from Cuba.
"USA Rice has been advocating for open trade and travel with Cuba since the mid-1990's and we were the first U.S. commodity back in Cuba in 1999," said Ward.  "Our commitment to the market and the Cuban people is genuine. We understand these are the first steps in the process but we're ready to engage with Congress both independently and through the U.S. Agriculture for Cuba Coalition (USACC) to advocate for complete normalization of trade with Cuba."
Contact:  Kristen Dayton (703) 236-1464