As relations between the U.S. and Cuba continue to advance, U.S. regulators are moving quickly to ensure that current restrictions do not hamper big-picture progress made as economic and trade barriers come down.
In mid-October, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) updated its Cuban Assets Control Regulations to, among other things, clear the way for U.S. companies to maintain aircraft flying into and out of Cuba. “OFAC is making these amendments in support of the process of normalizing bilateral relations with Cuba,” the agency said.
Specifically, OFAC amended its rules to clarify that “persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are authorized to provide civil aviation safety-related services to Cuba and Cuban nationals, wherever located, to ensure the safety of civil aviation and the safe operation of commercial aircraft.” The changes went into effect on Oct. 17.
The Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) was among those applauding the move. “The new Treasury rule will allow American mechanics and U.S. companies to more easily and efficiently ensure the safe operation of aircraft flying in and out of Cuba,” says Christian Klein, ARSA’s executive vice president. “That is good news for the aviation maintenance industry and even better news for aircraft passengers.”
The moves came as a result of a broad policy directive issued by President Barack Obama aimed at easing sanctions and strengthening relationships. The White House favors lifting all sanctions against Cuba, but Congress has so far resisted. Klein said that absent a complete relaxing of restrictions, the U.S. aviation industry will remain handicapped.
“While this is another important step toward more commerce between the U.S. and Cuba, until Congress fully lifts the embargo, U.S. aviation companies remain at a disadvantage compared to those from countries allowed to trade freely with the island,” Klein says.