US loosens regulations ahead of Obama's Cuba visit to island

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States on Tuesday (March 15) eased some of its Cuba restrictions before President Barack Obama's to the former Cold War enemy next week, allowing Cuba and its people greater access to US financial institutions and relaxing travel limits.

The trade and travel changes will allow Cubans to open US bank accounts and authorise those living in the Unites States to earn a salary or compensation, the US government said.

Amendments to US regulations will also allow individuals to visit Communist-ruled country for "people-to-people educational travel," the US Treasury and Commerce Departments said in a statement.

The easement comes as Obama prepares to travel to Cuba March 21 to 22 amid moves towards normal relations with the island nation just 145km from Florida's coast.