Spain's King Felipe, Queen Letizia, U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. President Barak Obama chat during a visit to the White House in Washington September 15, 2015. REUTERS/Francisco Gomez/Pool
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The Obama administration announced wide-ranging new rules on Friday to further ease trade, travel and investment restrictions with Cuba, the latest effort to chip away at the long-standing U.S. economic embargo amid a thaw between the former Cold War foes.The changes will allow certain U.S. companies to establish offices on Cuba for the first time in decades, expand banking and Internet activities and eliminate limits on the amount of money that can be taken to the Communist-ruled island, U.S. officials said.Aides to President Barack Obama touted the moves, which he implemented with his executive powers in defiance of critics in Congress, as a way to boost business and promote economic and political reform in Cuba.The changes, while significant, stop short of allowing across-the-board investment by U.S. companies or general U.S. tourism, activities banned under the broader embargo.Set to take effect on Monday, the new regulations build on others Obama announced in January to begin lowering economic barriers with Cuba.The Vatican has long condemned the embargo against Cuba.U.S. officials said the full impact of the eased restrictions will depend on whether Cuba makes economic reforms of its own.
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