On July 31, OFAC designated Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Moros as a “Specially Designated National” (“SDN”) blocking all of his assets and prohibiting any transaction in which he has an interest within U.S. jurisdiction. Last week, on July 26, OFAC designated 13 other current and former Venezuelan officials as SDNs, including Rocco Albisinni Serrano, who is the President of CENCOEX (the Venezuelan foreign exchange authority), and Simon Alejandro Zerpa Delgado, who is the Vice President of Finance for PDVSA and the President of Venezuela’s Economic and Social Development Bank (“BANDES”), and the President of Venezuela’s National Development Fund (“FONDEN”). There have been rumors that the United States was considering restricting oil sales from Venezuela, but at the moment no such sanctions have been imposed. Continue Reading OFAC Sanctions Venezuelan Officials

On July ­­25, 2017, the United States House adopted H.R. 3364, the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (“CAATS”), a compromise measure incorporating both House and Senate sanctions proposals.  The vote was 419-3.  CAATS was approved by the Senate on July 27, 2017 (the vote was 98-2).  It now awaits signature by President Trump (who in any event appears to lack sufficient support to uphold a veto).

Continue Reading Congress Reaches Agreement on New Sanctions against Russia, North Korea, and Iran

On July 18, the State Department published a notice that Secretary Tillerson has certified that Iran remains in compliance with its obligations under the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”), pursuant to which Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief (see our 2015 and 2016 memoranda).  Recertification of compliance is required every 90 days under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015.  Despite President Trump’s criticism of the JCPOA, this is his Administration’s second certification of compliance.

As with the prior certification, the State Department’s announcement notes that the Administration is reviewing the suspension of sanctions pursuant to the JCPOA.  The announcement also notes that the State Department and OFAC today designated an additional 18 Iranian entities and individuals for activities related to proliferation, ballistic missile development, support of the Iranian military and IRGC, and transnational criminal organizations; all of these sanctions authorities were unaffected by the JCPOA.

The next certification is due in mid-October.

On July 12, the State Department announced that President Trump is issuing an Executive Order extending the previously announced deadline under Executive Order 13761 to complete a review of the Government of Sudan’s conduct and determine whether to permanently terminate U.S. sanctions against Sudan (see our previous update here).  In the meantime, the OFAC general license suspending sanctions against the government and territory of Sudan (31 C.F.R. § 538.540) remains in effect.  The general license authorizes all transactions with the Government of Sudan and its controlled entities, the territory of Sudan, and any Specially Designated National (SDN) in Sudan currently designated with the tag [SUDAN].  It also unblocks all property previously blocked under the Sudanese sanctions.  The license does not, however, affect other sanctions programs, and other SDNs located in Sudan but designated under different programs (including those relating to Darfur, South Sudan, and terrorism) will remain sanctioned.  Comprehensive restrictions on U.S. exports to Sudan also remain in place (see the Bureau of Industry and Security’s Sudan page).

Sudanese sanctions will now be re-evaluated by October 12, 2017.  The new Executive Order leaves in place the previous structure pursuant to which Sudanese sanctions will be permanently terminated if the Secretary of State makes a determination that the Government of Sudan has sustained the positive actions leading to the suspension of sanctions.

On July 6, 2017, the EU and Japan announced an “Agreement in Principle” on the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (“EPA”).  Negotiations on “the world’s largest, free, industrialised economic zone” began in 2013, and have now culminated in a political agreement which sets out the commitments of both Parties on numerous topics. While parts of the draft text have been published, many issues remain under negotiation. Nonetheless, the EPA provides useful guidance on what European and Japanese businesses can plausibly expect from this deal.  A summary of key issues is set out below. Continue Reading Opening Up European and Japanese Markets: What the EU-Japan Trade Deal Means for Businesses

On June 16, 2017, the President released a National Security Presidential Memorandum, which outlines the Trump Administration’s national security and economic policy towards Cuba. The Presidential Directive lays out the framework for rolling back certain Obama-era regulations that eased travel and trade restrictions between the United States and Cuba. The White House has released a fact sheet related to today’s Presidential Directive, and the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) has released a list of frequently asked questions.

Continue Reading President Trump Announces Limited Roll-Back of Obama-Era Cuba Sanctions Relief

On June 15, 2017, the United States Senate adopted S.722, incorporating the “Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017” and the “Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017,” by a vote of 98-2. The new law, assuming it is passed by the House and adopted,  would:

  • codify all existing Russia sanctions and designations (meaning the Trump Administration cannot unilaterally lift them) and require congressional review for any subsequent changes in licensing policy;
  • tighten existing sectoral sanctions against Russian state-owned energy, financial, and defense companies and threaten their expansion to the state-owned shipping, rail, and mining/metal sectors;
  • reinvigorate existing but currently unenforced secondary sanctions targeting Russia and add new secondary sanctions provisions targeting Russian pipeline transactions in particular (but leave those sanctions in the hands of the Trump Administration); and
  • expand authority to sanction Russian cyber-related activities.

With respect to Iran, the Sanctions Bill would impose a largely symbolic expansion of secondary sanctions against Iranian military activity and sharpen focus on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and its affiliates.

The bill now proceeds to the House for consideration, the timing of which is uncertain, and it is possible that further amendments will be made. However, given the margin of passage of the Sanctions Bill and the bipartisan negotiations resulting in its adoption, it appears that there is a good chance that the final legislation passed by the House will be broadly similar and will be adopted by a margin sufficient to override any veto by President Trump.

The linked memorandum provides an overview of the key provisions of the new legislation.  Please click here to read the full alert memorandum.

Background

Fifteen years ago, China joined the World Trade Organization (“WTO”). To alleviate concerns of cheap Chinese goods flooding international markets at that time, China agreed to allow other WTO members to continue conducting their anti-dumping calculations in a special way, thereby recognizing the concerns of certain members that prices of Chinese goods could be distorted due to state interference. This methodology considered China as a “non-market economy” (“NME”). In a nutshell, this means other countries can disregard Chinese prices or costs, and can use “alternative methods” (external benchmarks, such as hypothetical costs of a third country) to determine the margin of dumping in an investigation. In doing so, authorities will typically end up levying higher anti-dumping duties on Chinese goods.

Continue Reading Anti-Dumping, Non-Market Economy and Chinese Goods – Where Do We Stand in the EU?

On May 22, 2017, the Council officially authorized the opening of Article 50 negotiations with the UK. It appointed the Commission as the EU’s negotiator and adopted a first set of Negotiating Directives outlining the EU’s priorities for the first phase of negotiations. These directives are in line with, and complement, the (more political) Article 50 Guidelines of the European Council, adopted by the EU 27 Heads of State and Government on April 29, 2017. This last step in a chain of authorization procedures means that the European Commission, led by Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, now has all the clearances required empowering it to start Brexit talks forthwith.

Continue Reading Adoption of European Commission Mandate – Brexit Negotiations Can Now Start

On May 16, 2017, the EU Court of Justice released its long-awaited opinion on the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (“FTA” ) (“the Agreement”) (full text here). Back in July 2015, after the EU and Singapore completed trade negotiations, the European Commission sought clarity on its authority to conclude complex deals.

The following questions submitted by the Commission have now been answered:

Continue Reading ECJ Issues Opinion on Singapore FTA: Answers to Guide Brexit Trade Negotiators