Trump set to row back on Cuban travel and trade

The new measures will fulfill one of the President's campaign promises

Trump set to row back on Cuban travel and trade

Image: Susan Walsh/AP/Press Association Images

President Donald Trump will announce new restrictions on trade and travel to Cuba.

Though the move is certainly a move away from Barack Obama’s 2015 rapprochement with Havana, it is not a reversal.

Diplomatic relations will remain, and so will commercial flights, but travel to Cuba will be more tightly monitored and business will face restrictions aimed at ensuring that Cuban military and intelligence organisations do not benefit.

“The new policy will empower the Cuban people,” a senior White House official said. “It does not target the Cuban people but the measures are designed to restrict the flow of money to oppressive elements of the Cuban regime.”

There are also no plans to reinstate the limits that Obama lifted on the amount of the island’s coveted rum and cigars that American can bring home for personal use, one White House official said.

Saying that the aim was to repair what Trump has called a "bad deal" struck by Obama, US officials said the new administration would leave the door open to improved relations if Cuba undertakes democratic reforms such as allowing free elections and releasing political prisoners.

International human rights groups say, however, that reinstating a US policy of isolating the island could make the situation worse by empowering Cuban hardliners.

The Cuban government has made clear it will not be pressured into reforms in exchange for further engagement with the US.

Trump will declare the new policy in Miami, at the heart of the Cuban exile community in Little Havana, fulfilling an election campaign promise.

Under the order, the Treasury and Commerce Departments will be given 30 days to begin writing new regulations and they will not take effect until they are complete.

Obama’s opening to Cuba, negotiated in secret with the help of the Vatican and which culminated in a presidential trip to Havana in March 2016, was regarded by his administration as one of its signature foreign policy achievements.

It ended an embargo of more than a half century, which had failed to produce a softening of the communist regime.