I just plowed through the Commerce Department’s announcement of new regulations governing the gift packages that Americans can send to
Commerce is involved because it regulates exports, and gift parcels are considered exports. The announcement is a counterpart to this month’s Treasury regulations that end restrictions on Cuban American family visits and remittances. Both actions follow from the President’s April 13 announcement.
The regulations make significant openings by expanding the range of items that can be sent, by increasing the allowed value of package contents, by increasing the frequency with which packages can be sent, by expanding the universe of recipients in
Here’s what the regulations do.
The regulations move away from the Bush approach of listing items that can be sent in gift parcels (food, medicine, medical supplies, radios, batteries, cell phones) and prohibiting anything not on the list.
The Obama regulations keep that list and add a few items to it: “clothing, personal hygiene items, seeds, veterinary medicines and supplies, fishing equipment and supplies, soap-making equipment.” But they then add a catch-all category: “non-sensitive items normally sent as gifts between individuals.”
With that phrase, the Administration pretty much gets out of the business of regulating every single decision someone might make when sending a gift to someone in
Under the new regulations, any American can send a gift parcel to an individual in
It remains the case that only one gift parcel may be sent per month. But instead of one per month to a Cuban household, the new rules allow one parcel per month to an individual in
The regulations then create a separate category of items that may be sent as gifts to people and organizations in
“Mobile phones, including cellular and satellite telephones; subscriber information module (SIM) cards; personal digital assistants; laptop and desktop computers and peripherals such as monitors, graphics accelerator cards, data storage devices and media such as disk drives, flash drives, writable compact disks and floppy disks, keyboards, mice, and printers including commodities possessing IEEE 802.15.1 ‘Bluetooth’ wireless personal area networking (WPAN) capability; Internet connectivity devices including those possessing IEEE 802.11 ‘Wi-Fi’ and IEEE 802.16 ‘WiMax’ wireless capabilities; satellite-based television and radio receivers; digital music and video players and recorders; personal two-way radios; digital cameras and memory cards therefor; and batteries, chargers, carrying cases and similar accessories for the equipment authorized by this rule. This rule also authorizes the export and reexport of basic software for laptop and desktop computers such as: Computer operating systems and software (except ‘encryption source code’) that enable activities such as word processing, producing spread sheets, producing graphics presentations, sending and receiving e-mail, Web browsing or developing relational databases.”
As in the general gift category, these items cannot be sent to high-ranking government or party officials or to organizations controlled by the Cuban government. Unlike the general gift category, there are “no limits on value or frequency of shipments.”
In all the cases described above, senders of gift parcels do not need to get prior permission from the
Finally, the 44-pound limit on baggage carried by travelers to
There are additional details in the regulations themselves, for example a restriction on devices and software that are on Commerce’s “control list,” such as items containing sophisticated encryption technology. Separately, there’s a section that opens the door to licensing the export of equipment for satellite radio and television, in the unlikely event that
All in all, these regulations are another good, humane move by the Administration. Unlike President Obama’s new policies regarding travel and remittances, this one doesn’t create special privileges for Cuban Americans only. It recognizes that Americans in general might have something positive to contribute. Let’s hope that thinking continues to take hold.