In March, 2017, Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer ZTE entered into a settlement with U.S. export control and sanctions authorities in connection with a multi-year scheme to re-export U.S.-origin telecommunications equipment to Iran and North Korea using a network of front companies. ZTE also admitted to deliberately concealing and destroying evidence of the scheme to keep it from the U.S. government investigation. ZTE paid a civil and criminal penalty of $1.19 billion and, as part of the settlement, represented that it would take disciplinary action against 39 employees. ZTE entered into a criminal plea agreement and settlement agreements with BIS and OFAC.
This Trade Summary provides an overview of WTO dispute settlement decisions and panel activities, and EU decisions and measures on commercial policy, customs policy and external relations, for the first quarter of 2018.
On March 19, 2018, President Trump issued an Executive Order prohibiting all U.S. persons and residents from transacting in digital currencies issued by the Government of Venezuela, including the country’s recently launched oil-backed cryptocurrency the “Petro” (PTR) or petromoneda. The sanctions are in response to an emerging trend of sanctioned or rogue regimes experimenting with digital assets. Continue Reading U.S. Sanctions Venezuela’s “Petro” Cryptocurrency Amid Broader Trend of Sanctioned and Rogue Regimes Experimenting with Digital Assets
On April 6, 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s (“Treasury”) Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), in consultation with the U.S. Department of State, designated three dozen Russian “oligarchs,” government officials, and related entities as specially designated nationals (“SDNs”). All were designated under pre-existing Ukraine/Russia-related authorities provided by Executive Order (“E.O.”) 13661, relating to (among others) senior officials of the Government of the Russian Federation and their supporters, and E.O. 13662, relating to persons and entities operating in specified sectors of the Russian economy. Effective today, the newly designated persons and entities are included on OFAC’s list of SDNs (the “SDN List”). Treasury also designated the Russian state-owned arms export monopoly and a related financial institution as SDNs because of their activities relating to the Syrian conflict.
OFAC simultaneously released two general licenses, General Licenses 12 (“GL 12”) and 13 (“GL 13”), that authorize a two-month wind-down period for operations involving many of the specified entities and a one-month period to dispose of holdings in three of the new SDNs that are publicly listed companies. OFAC also released new Frequently Asked Questions related to both the designations and the general licenses.
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On March 16, 2018, the European Commission released a 10-page list of U.S. products it plans to impose “rebalancing” duties on, in response to the recently adopted US steel tariff measures subjecting imports of steel and aluminum to 25% and 10% duties, respectively (see here for our previous post on this).
On March 8, 2018, President Trump imposed new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports into the US. Effective March 23, 2018, a 25% tariff will be imposed on steel articles corresponding to Harmonized Tariff Schedule (“HTS”) codes 7206.10 through 7216.50, 7216.99 through 7301.10, 7302.10, 7302.40 through 7302.90, and 7304.10 through 7306.90. In addition, a 10% tariff will be imposed on aluminum articles corresponding to the HTS codes for: (a) unwrought aluminum (HTS 7601); (b) aluminum bars, rods, and profiles (HTS 7604); (c) aluminum wire (HTS 7605); (d) aluminum plate, sheet, strip, and foil (flat rolled products) (HTS 7606 and 7607); (e) aluminum tubes and pipes and tube and pipe fitting (HTS 7608 and 7609); and (f) aluminum castings and forgings (HTS 76126.96.36.199 and 76188.8.131.52). Continue Reading The Clash of Steel: U.S. Tariffs Imminently In Force, Canada and Mexico Exempt
On February 12, 2018, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued two new Venezuela-related frequently asked questions (FAQs) providing additional guidance on how late payments will be treated for purposes of the prohibitions on dealing in “new debt” of the Government of Venezuela and of state-owned entities. Most notably, the new guidance prohibits acceptance of late payments on post-sanctions debt of Government of Venezuela entities if those payments are received outside the applicable 30- or 90-day limit under Executive Order 13808, even if the failure to pay was not consented to by the lender and violates the underlying agreement. This guidance likely also has implications for the similar prohibitions on dealings in “new debt” under Russian sectoral sanctions. Continue Reading OFAC Issues Guidance on Payments under Venezuelan “New Debt”; Likely to Affect Russian Sectoral Sanctions as Well
On January 18, 2018, the European Commission launched a call for proposals on regulatory cooperation activities envisaged by the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (“CETA”). (See our previous post for further details on the provisional application of CETA). The Commission is seeking views from all interested parties on the scope of issues for potential regulatory cooperation in order to prepare for the first meeting of the RCF, tentatively scheduled to take place in mid-2018. Continue Reading European Commission’s Call for Proposals on Regulatory Cooperation under CETA
The Treasury Department today released the much-anticipated list of “the most significant senior foreign political figures and oligarchs in the Russian Federation” required by Section 241 of CAATSA. As we have long advised, the list has no immediate legal impact, and it appears that at least in the short to medium term it is unlikely to affect U.S. sanctions policy. The list is a mechanical compilation of 210 names using objective criteria and, at least in its unclassified version, provides little basis to single individuals out for sanctions.
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This trade summary provides an overview of WTO dispute settlement decisions and panel activities, and EU decisions and measures on commercial policy, customs policy and external relations, for the fourth quarter of 2017.