President Obama recently announced that the United States and Cuba would renew diplomatic relations. As part of this deal, certain US sanctions against Cuba and Cuban nationals will be lifted or eased. In the coming weeks, the Treasury and Commerce Departments will amend their regulations to implement the president's announcement.
President Obama has signed into law the Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014, which authorises further sanctions against parties in Russia, as well as military assistance for Ukraine. The act requires the imposition of sanctions with respect to certain Russian weapons exporters and authorises – but does not require – the imposition of sanctions and export controls against Russia's energy sector.
The government has expanded sanctions and export controls against Russia's energy, defence and financial services sectors. The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control has broadened sectoral sanctions targeting Russia's defence sector and additional entities and activities in the energy sector. New restrictions on exports to Russia destined to military end uses or end users have also been announced.
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control has revised its guidance on entities owned by blocked persons. The revised guidance makes clear that an entity is blocked if one or more blocked persons directly or indirectly owns a 50% or greater interest in the entity, whether individually or in aggregate.
The Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control has revised its guidance on entities owned by blocked persons. The revised guidance makes clear that an entity is blocked if one or more blocked persons directly or indirectly owns a 50% or greater interest in the entity, whether individually or in the aggregate.
In response to the crisis in Ukraine, the US government has imposed new sanctions against Russian firms in the energy, financial and defence sectors. They include two new directives barring transactions or dealings in new debt or equity of companies identified on the new Sectoral Sanctions Identifications List. The Office of Foreign Assets Control has also added to its Specially Designated Nationals List.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control has sanctioned additional parties in connection with the continuing crisis in Ukraine. The most recent designations target seven officials in Russia's leadership and 17 entities linked to the president's inner circle in the banking, construction and energy sectors. The targeted individuals will be subject to an asset freeze and a US visa ban, and the targeted companies will be subject to an asset freeze.
In response to the latest developments in Crimea, the US government has blocked the property of certain Russian government officials, their supporters and a Russian bank. These parties have been added to the Office of Foreign Assets Control's specially designated nationals list and US persons are now barred from having any dealings with them.
Clearstream Banking, SA recently agreed to pay the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) $152 million to settle claims that it violated US economic sanctions. OFAC's settlement with Clearstream extends to the securities industry a string of multimillion-dollar enforcement actions involving use of the US financial system.
The United States and the European Union recently implemented a mutual recognition arrangement for their respective supply chain security programmes. The US Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism is now recognised as equivalent to the European Union's Authorised Economic Operator programme. Programme members receive certain benefits, including expedited EU customs clearance.
The US Departments of State and Treasury have announced the issuance of a new general licence that waives a nearly decade-old US import ban on most Burmese-origin goods. The move represents the latest step in a process of targeted easing first proposed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. US persons now may import any article that is a product of Burma, subject to certain limitations.
The Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 has been signed into law. Capping months of congressional debate over Iran's nuclear weapons programme and Syria's crackdown on opposition groups, the new law expands the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996 and the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act of 2010. It also codifies various prohibitions recently imposed by executive order.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control recently authorised new investment in and exportation of financial services to Myanmar, easing sanctions that have been in place for over 15 years. The statutory framework for the US sanctions remains in place, thereby permitting the US government to re-impose sanctions should reforms in Myanmar not proceed as hoped.
President Obama recently determined that there is a sufficient supply of petroleum products in world markets to allow countries to reduce their petroleum imports from Iran significantly. The finding clears the way for new sanctions under Section 1245 of the National Defence Authorisation Act on foreign financial institutions that conduct or facilitate financial transactions related to purchases of petroleum products from Iran.
President Obama has issued an executive order blocking all property of the government of Iran and Iranian financial institutions, including the Central Bank of Iran. The executive order, which implements the National Defence Authorisation Act 2012, comes in the midst of growing international concern regarding Iran's nuclear programme and its recent threats to block the Strait of Hormuz.
The US State Department's Directorate of Defence Trade Controls has proposed changes to the rules governing the brokering of defence articles and defence services under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). The proposed rule entails far-reaching changes to the ITAR brokering provisions and related provisions applicable to manufacturers and exporters of defence articles and defence services.
The United States has imposed new sanctions against Iran in response to the recent alleged assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador in the United States and new findings by the International Atomic Energy Agency concerning Iran's nuclear activities. The new sanctions primarily target non-US persons with dealings in Iran's petroleum, petrochemical, banking and nuclear sectors.
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) recently issued a final rule authorising the export and re-export of food to Iran and Sudan. These changes come in the form of two new general licences. Exports of non-food agricultural commodities, medicines, medical devices continue to be subject to the specific licensing process that OFAC has administered for many years under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act.
President Obama recently imposed further sanctions on Syria. The new sanctions block all property interests of the government of Syria and prohibit many trade transactions by US persons with Syria. These sanctions represent the strongest US financial action taken against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad since the start of popular protests in Damascus earlier this year.
The United States recently took a series of steps signalling that it has finally begun to enforce the most controversial extraterritorial aspects of US economic sanctions against Iran. Non-US companies in the petroleum and natural gas industries should carefully consider their response to this significant change in US economic sanction enforcement priorities.
The US Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control recently issued guidance concerning US economic sanctions against Sudan and Libya. This guidance is intended to help companies and non-profit organisations with ties to these countries to maximise available opportunities while still complying with US law.
In response to the growing violence in Libya, the United States has imposed economic sanctions against Libya. All property interests of the Libyan government, certain senior officials and others implicated in human rights abuses have been blocked, and US persons have been barred from transferring or donating funds to, or having other business dealings with, those persons.
US employers will soon be required to provide certification of compliance with deemed export rules when petitioning for certain non-immigrant work visa classifications on behalf of their employees. Inaccurate certifications may expose employers to liability for false statements to the US government, as well as export control violations.
The US State Department has issued a proposed rule that, if adopted, would relax the controls associated with the export of defence-related items to non-US entities that employ individuals of various nationalities. Such entities would be required to conduct due diligence on their employees to prevent diversions to countries subject to US defence trade embargoes.
President Obama has signed into law the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability and Divestment Act. As the United States already maintains a nearly comprehensive embargo of Iran, this act largely targets the activities of non-US companies doing business in Iran, particularly in the petroleum sector. However, even US companies may be affected by the act's wide-ranging provisions.
The Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security has published an interim final rule implementing major changes to the US export controls applicable to encryption items. The changes, effective immediately, simplify the regulation of encryption software, technology and hardware, and should substantially reduce the administrative burden associated with the export and re-export of such items.
Over 9,000 pharmaceutical and chemical intermediates enjoy duty-free treatment under the customs regime of the United States and other countries that participate in the World Trade Organization Pharmaceutical Agreement. The Office of the US Trade Representative recently sought public comment on the possible expansion of the list of products subject to this reciprocal duty-free treatment.
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control has promulgated two final rules that ease sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Sudan with respect to key areas of authorized trade. The new rules will make it easier for exporters to supply agricultural commodities to Cuba, as well as to support internet-based personal communications in Cuba, Iran and Sudan.
The Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security has proposed a rule to change certain recordkeeping requirements applicable to exporters and reduce paper documentation in the agency's licensing programme. The proposed rule is intended to reduce mailing costs and free up staff time, and will also affect exporter compliance practices if implemented.
The recently signed Omnibus Appropriations Act may increase sales to Cuba of agricultural commodities, medicine and medical products by reversing a 2005 interpretation of 'cash in advance', as set out in the Trade Sanctions Reform Act 2000. During the fiscal year 2010, the term 'payment of cash in advance' shall mean "payment before the transfer of title to, and control of, the exported items to the Cuban purchaser".
US companies should expect enhanced export enforcement activities focusing on domestic sales as the result of a recent undercover investigation by the Government Accountability Office. With congressional and administrative interest focused on the control of sensitive items and technologies, US companies should review their screening and 'know your customer' procedures, even for domestic sales.
The Bureau of Industry and Security and the Office of Foreign Assets Control have reached a joint settlement agreement with DHL regarding allegations that it unlawfully aided and abetted the unauthorized exportation of goods to Syria, Iran and Sudan in 2004 and failed to comply with applicable record-keeping requirements in respect of hundreds of exports.
The Departments of the Treasury and Commerce have taken action regarding President Obama's announcement in April 2009 that the US government would ease restrictions on Cuba. The regulatory amendments detail how the agencies will ease restrictions on travel to Cuba and open up business opportunities on the island for US telecommunications providers.