White House preparing new rules to weaken Cuba embargo

WASHINGTON/HAVANA - The White House is drafting sweeping regulations to further weaken the US trade embargo on Cuba that would ease restrictions on US companies and make it easier for Americans to travel there, US government sources said on Thursday.
The regulations, to be announced as soon as Friday, include allowing US companies to establish subsidiaries with Cuba, possibly via joint ventures with Cuban firms such as state telecommunications monopoly Etecsa, they said.
The rules would also allow general licenses for ferries and cruise ships to stop in Cuba rather than requiring them to apply for specific licenses, they said.
There was no immediate comment from President Barack Obama's administration.
"These are the most comprehensive expansion in US trade and investment regulations with Cuba in decades," said John Kavulich, head of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, who is familiar with the new rules.
"The result will be an exponential increase in interest towards Cuba by US companies and pressure upon Cuba by those same companies to permit access to the marketplace," Kavulich said.
The regulations would expand on others that Obama announced in January to ease the 53-year-old embargo of the Communist-ruled island.