by Susan Heavey and Matt Spetalnick, Reuters

The Obama administration announced wide-ranging new rules on Friday to ease trade, travel and investment restrictions with Cuba, the latest effort to chip away at the long-standing U.S. economic embargo amid a diplomatic thaw between the two former Cold War foes.

The regulatory changes will allow certain U.S. companies to establish offices on Cuba for the first time in decades, expand banking activities and eliminate limits on the amount of money that can be taken to the Communist-ruled island, U.S. officials said.

Washington touted the moves as a way to boost business and to support more economic and political freedom in Cuba. The changes, while significant, stop short of allowing across-the-board investment or general U.S. tourism, activities banned under the embargo.