U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice speaks on the new presidential action on Cuba at the Wilson Center in Washington D.C., the United States, Oct. 14, 2016. The United States announced Friday it would further lift sanctions on Cuba to facilitate trade as well as scientific and humanitarian exchanges between the two countries. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu)
The United States announced Friday it would further lift sanctions on Cuba to facilitate trade as well as scientific and humanitarian exchanges between the two countries.
The move is intended to expand scientific collaboration, increase humanitarian support, and bolster trade and commercial opportunities between the United States and Cuba, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.
"These steps have the potential to accelerate constructive change and unlock greater economic opportunity for Cubans and Americans," U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said.
The move, which will take effect on Monday, will make it easier for U.S. companies to import Cuban-made pharmaceuticals, U.S. agricultural companies to sell their products to the island and Cubans to purchase U.S.-made goods online.
Most notably, the new measure will lift the limits on the amount of Cuban rum and cigars U.S. travelers are allowed to bring home for personal use from the island country.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro announced on Dec. 17, 2014, that the two countries would normalize relations after more than a half century of enmity. The two former Cold War foes reestablished diplomatic relations last year.
In an effort to further cement his presidential legacy on Cuba, Obama on Friday approved a Presidential Policy Directive that "takes another major step forward" in U.S. efforts to normalize relations with Cuba.
"This new directive consolidates and builds upon the changes we've already made, promotes transparency by being clear about our policy and intentions, and encourages further engagement between our countries and our people," Obama said in a statement, adding that it will "make our opening to Cuba irreversible."
In the new directive, the Obama Administration also renewed its call on Congress to lift the embargo on Cuba.
"The embargo is outdated and should be lifted," Obama said in the directive. "My Administration has repeatedly called upon the Congress to lift the embargo, and we will continue to work toward that goal."