This article was written by Clif Burns of Bryan Cave LLP.
There have been news reports suggesting that Obama is contemplating, as part of the thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations, to remove Cuba from the list of countries that are state sponsors of terrorism. Beyond the symbolic significant of such a move, what would be the real consequences?
Of course, one consequence of being on the list is that, under section 40 of the Arms Export Control Act, 22 U.S.C. § 2780, any country put on the list of state sponsors of terrorism is automatically subject to an arms embargo. Of course, even if Cuba is removed from the list, I would not count on arms shipments from the U.S. to Havana in the foreseeable future.
Second, section 6(j) of the defunct Export Administration Act, 50 App § 2405, requires a license for exports to state sponsors if the export could make a “significant contribution to the military potential of such country” or if it could “enhance the ability of such country to support acts of international terrorism.” And, in those instances, Congress must be given notice of such exports thirty days in advance. Of course, the Export Administration Act is no longer in force and is only even in the appendix to Title 50 of the U.S.C. because the President breathes life into it every year using the superpowers bestowed on him by the International Economic Emergency Economic Powers Act. So the White House could end any license requirement for Cuba and end the notification requirement using the same superpowers that resurrected those provisions in the first place.
You might also think that removing Cuba from the list might make it easier to ship agricultural products, medicine and medical devices to Cuba under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. After all, the Act, in section 7205, imposes a license requirement for shipping those goods to a sanctioned country if that country is also on the state sponsor of terrorism list. However, that section specifically identifies Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism and imposes the license requirement on exports of agricultural products, medicines and medical products to Cuba. So, removing Cuba from the terrorism list will not eliminate the need for exporters to Cuba to continue to file the export notifications required to utilize License Exception AGR for TSRA exports to Cuba.