Is Cuba Opening Up for Business? Be Wary of US Laws!

Many of you have seen the headlines that say that the United States is trying to normalize relations with Cuba. Many of ASA’s members are no doubt already working the phones into Cuba to see where there is business to be had.  Some caution is still warranted, though.  While the Treasury Department has issued new regulations affecting trade with Cuba, those changes have not yet opened up trade in aircraft parts with Cuba.

The major categories of activities affected by the recent changes include:

  • Travel to Cuba for authorized purposes – certain travel-related transactions will now be authorized, including travel for certain educational, journalistic, and religious activities, professional
    meetings, and humanitarian projects.  Cuban tourism continues to be forbidden.
  • Travel services – U.S. persons (including travel agents and airlines) will be permitted to provide authorized travel and carrier services, within parameters set forth by the new regulations.
  • Remittances – authorized transactions have been increase from $500 per quarter to $2,000 per quarter.  This privilege is still limited – additional details can be found at 31 C.F.R. § 515.570(b).
  • Credit cards – U.S. credit cards and debt cards will be permitted to be used on authorized travel to Cuba.
  • Cuban cigars – authorized travelers will be permitted to import no more than $400 worth of goods from Cuba (including up to $100 in alcohol or tobacco products).
  • Banking – certain banking changes designed to better facilitate authorized transactions.

Until the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) relaxes its own sanctions, most transactions with Cuba involving aircraft parts remain forbidden.  But those who are interested in building relationships with Cuban carriers while we await further relaxation of sanctions may be interested in the “professional meetings” clause of the new regulations.  Under the old regulations, there was a narrow permission for attendance at professional meetings, but the meeting had to be sponsored by an “international professional organization, institution, or association that regularly sponsors meetings or conferences in other countries.”  This language has been relaxed somewhat to apply to a broader range of professional meetings including those where:

(i) The purpose of the meeting or conference is not the promotion of tourism in Cuba;
(ii) The purpose of the meeting directly relates to the traveler’s profession, professional background, or area of expertise, including area of graduate-level full-time study;
(iii) The traveler does not engage in recreational travel, tourist travel, or travel in pursuit of a hobby;
(iv) The traveler’s schedule of activities does not include free time or recreation in excess of that consistent with a full-time schedule of attendance at professional meetings or conferences.

For fuller details, please be sure to examine 31 C.F.R. 515.564.

This may offer some expanded opportunity for Americans to attend professional aviation meetings in Cuba in order to begin developing relationships with Cuban air carriers.


About Jason Dickstein
Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. He represents several aviation trade associations, including the Aviation Suppliers Association, the Aircraft Electronics Association, the Air Carrier Purchasing Conference, and the Modification and Replacement Parts Association. He also represents private clients drawn from the spectrum of the aviation industry.

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