Cuban infrastructure market opens to US companies

The policy relaxation is the third such loosening of sanctions against the Caribbean nation since Washington struck an agreement with Havana in 2014.

The US' departments of Treasury and Commerce have announced an easing of sanctions against Cuba, clearing the way for American companies to participate in public infrastructure projects alongside the Cuban government.

Amendments were made to Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) by the treasury department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and to Export Administration Regulations (EAR) by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) within the department of commerce. The changes were published to the Federal Register and set to take effect on January 27.

“Today's amendments to the [CACR] build on successive actions over the last year and send a clear message to the world:  the United States is committed to empowering and enabling economic advancements for the Cuban people,” said treasury secretary Jacob Lew.

As part of its role in facilitating further commerce between the US and Cuba, the BIS will be responsible for evaluating opportunities for US companies to participate in the construction of infrastructure projects on a case-by-case basis, with the qualifying criteria being that the projects must provide direct benefit to citizens.

“Today's commerce rule builds on previous changes by authorising additional exports including for such purposes as disaster preparedness; education; agricultural production; artistic endeavors; food processing; and public transportation,” said commerce secretary Penny Pritzker.

A policy of denial will remain in effect for revenue-generating exports that are designated for use by state-owned entities.

The policy relaxation is the third such loosening of sanctions against the Communist-ruled Caribbean nation since President Barack Obama struck an historic agreement with the Cuban government to reestablish diplomatic and trade relations in December 2014.