Wall Street Journal
By Samuel Rubenfeld
June 19, 2017
The announcement in Miami by President Donald Trump of a rollback in U.S. policy toward Cuba is several months away, according to a document released by the U.S. Treasury Department, and will be limited in its effects for companies, two legal experts said. However, they said, it could present challenges for U.S. companies considering new business on the island.
Treasury is going to have to implement, “at a very granular level,” the policy memorandum issued by Mr. Trump, which was at a higher level, said Michael Casey, an attorney with the firm Ropes & Gray whose practice includes representing companies on sanctions, export controls and corruption issues. “The Treasury will have to make some decisions about what the guidance means and how it will apply with U.S. companies that engaged with Cuba for the past three years,” he said, noting that the Treasury document said companies already involved in lawful transactions won’t necessarily be affected. “[Treasury] has seemed to make a distinction between companies already with business in Cuba and companies seeking new business,” he said, adding that those seeking new business should expect it to be more challenging. “Any companies seeking new business in Cuba that aren’t already in the country are going to pause and wait until [Treasury] issues the new regulations,” he said.
Harry Clark, a partner at at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP who chairs the firm’s international trade and compliance group, stressed that “nothing’s happening now” with regard to the Cuba changes, and said he wasn’t sure they would have much of any effect on companies. “It wasn’t U.S. policy, even under [President Barack] Obama, to allow U.S. companies to engage in Cuba in ways that involved the Cuban military or the Cuban security services. It may have happened, but it wasn’t supposed to happen,” he said. Mr. Clark said there was an “exaggeration on both sides” as to the extent of liberalization under Mr. Obama and of the rollback announced by Mr. Trump. “I don’t see this as being that big of a deal,” he said.
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