10 Jun 2017

Trump tipped to tighten rules on trade and travel to Cuba

2:51 pm on 10 June 2017

The US President is expected to visit Miami as early as next Friday to announce a new Cuba policy that could tighten rules on trade and travel, eased by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Newspapers being sold in Havana last November informing Cubans of the victory of Donald Trump as presidential candidate.

Newspapers being sold in Havana last November informing Cubans of the victory of Donald Trump as presidential candidate. Photo: AFP

Mr Trump's aides were nearing completion of a comprehensive review of relations with Cuba and are expected to send recommendations to his national security team and then to the president in coming days, a US official said.

Plans are in the works for Mr Trump to roll out his new approach next Friday in a speech in Miami, fulfilling a campaign pledge. But a delay is still possible if it takes longer to make a final decision, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

While specific changes have not yet been finalized, the sources say Mr Trump is likely to unveil a partial rather than complete rollback of Mr Obama's actions, which included restoration of relations and reopening of embassies after a diplomatic breakthrough in 2014 with America's former Cold War foe.

Then US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro at a meeting at the Revolution Palace in Havana in March last year.

Then US President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro at a meeting at the Revolution Palace in Havana in March last year. Photo: AFP

Earlier on Friday, a group of Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Mr Trump urging him not to rescind Mr Obama's measures, which included significant easing of trade, travel and investment rules with the communist-ruled island.

With the Cuba review approaching its final stages, both sides of the issue have recently stepped up lobbying to sway the decision on how far to go.

In the letter, seven of Mr Trump's fellow Republicans expressed deep concern that he is considering rescinding Mr Obama's policies and said that such a move would disincentivize Cuba to once again become dependent on countries like Russia and China.

The warning reflected growing unease on Capitol Hill over returning to a more contentious approach to Cuba, even within a Republican Party that has traditionally hewed to a harder line against Havana.

Policy deliberations still under way

Senior officials at the National Security Council met on Friday to begin finalizing a list of recommendations, the sources said.

Mr Trump's changes are expected to stop short of breaking diplomatic relations restored two years ago after more than five decades of hostility, administration officials say.

Among the options under consideration are banning US companies from doing business with Cuban enterprises tied to the military and tightening rules on Americans travelling there, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Divisions remain within the Trump administration, especially given that rapprochement with Cuba has created opportunities for American companies.

Some aides have argued that Mr Trump, a former real estate magnate who won the presidency promising to unleash US business and create jobs, would have a hard time defending any moves that closed off the Cuban market.

The US airline and travel industries have made clear they do not want to see reinstatement of Cuba restrictions.

But Mr Trump has come under heavy pressure from Cuban-American lawmakers, including Senator Marco Rubio and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, to roll back Mr Obama's rapprochement.

Mr Trump threatened shortly after his election in November to terminate Mr Obama's approach unless Cuba made significant concessions, something it is unlikely to do.

Mr Obama implemented his normalization measures through executive actions, and Mr Trump has the power to undo much of it.

- Reuters

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