United States' trade embargo on Cuba, the longest such restriction in
modern history, will continue for another year after President Obama
signed legislation that extends the law on Tuesday.
The Trading With the Enemy Act, which was originally enacted in 1917 and gives the President the power to oversee and restrict the country's trading policy with enemies in times of war, was slated to end on Friday unless Obama intervened.
Obama, though, chose to extend the act, declaring in a memorandum to the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury: "I hereby determine that the continuation for one year of the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba is in the national interest of the United States."
The embargo would not have suddenly ended on Friday if Obama did not re-sign the Trading With the Enemy Act. Congress was granted the power to override a presidential decision to end the embargo when it passed the Helms-Burton Act of 1996.
The move to extend the embargo is not surprising, but there had been signs in the beginning of Obama’s presidency that U.S. relations with Cuba might improve.
in 2009, Obama lifted travel and remittance restrictions on
Cuban-Americans and abolished limitations on money transfers. And just
this year, U.S. Customs approved eight more airports for passenger
flights between Cuba and the U.S.
Obama also made strides to improve business relations with the island. He lifted sanctions to allow U.S. telecommunication companies the chance to apply for business licenses in Cuba, encouraging cell phone, Internet, radio and satellite television technologies there.
In addition, Obama made it easier for businessmen to sell agricultural and medical goods in Cuba by offering a general travel license that does not require individual permission.