Doreen Edelman

On November 9, 2017, changes to the United States’ Cuba Sanctions program went into effect, as the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) amended the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) and Export Administration Regulations (EAR), respectively. The CACR updates and EAR updates implement the changes announced by President Trump in his June 2017 speech and associated National Security Presidential Memorandum (NSPM). The State Department also published its Cuba Restricted List, which identifies additional restricted entities and subentities that U.S. persons are prohibited from transacting with. The following is an overview of the key changes businesses should be aware of with respect to activities involving Cuba. (more…)

On June 16, 2017, President Trump issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the United States Toward Cuba.  The Memorandum outlined a framework for agencies such as the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) to update and implement an expanded range of sanctions directed at Cuba and the Castro regime.  The most significant changes concern authorized individual travel and transactions with entities related to Cuban military or intelligence services. While the current administration seeks to roll back Obama-era Cuba policy that was geared towards reducing sanctions and normalizing relations, OFAC has yet to implement any regulatory amendments called for in the June Memorandum. For more information on the practical effect of the Presidential Memorandum and the future of Cuba sanctions, see our Cuba Sanctions 2017 update in Global Trade Magazine.

On October 12, 2017, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) revoked certain parts of its economic sanctions regime with respect to Sudan and the Government of Sudan.  OFAC issued a General License on January 17 authorizing transactions formerly banned under the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (SSR), and that General License will no longer be needed after October 12 to engage in such previously prohibited transactions. While the decision reflects progress towards the normalization of bilateral relations between the U.S. and Sudan, U.S. companies and multi-national exporters should remain wary of the sanctions regimes and trade restrictions that remain in force through authorities in the U.S., the European Union, and the United Nations.  Comprehensive due diligence remains a necessity for doing business in the region, particularly for the defense industry.  Notably, OFAC can and will investigate business activities that violated the SSR before the issuance of the January 2017  General License.  For more information on the revocation of the SSR and recent enforcement action, see our Sudan Sanctions 2017 update in Global Trade Magazine.

President Trump’s October 13 speech denounced Iran’s “fanatical regime” as a “menace,” and threatened to terminate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated by Barack Obama and formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). He accused the “rogue” Iranian government of financing terror organizations, imprisoning Americans and fomenting vicious civil wars. (more…)

On October 17, 2017, trade representatives from the United States, Canada, and Mexico wrapped up the fourth round of negotiations concerning the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in Washington D.C. The latest round of negotiations were openly contentious, and a trilateral statement issued by the nations’ respective trade representatives noted that the “[n]ew proposals have created challenges” and that “significant conceptual gaps” exist amongst the current NAFTA parties. After four rounds and 22 days of negotiations, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer stated that he was “[s]urprised and disappointed by the resistance to change from our negotiating partners.” In fact, at least five U.S. proposals have reportedly drawn pushback from our North American neighbors, leaving the parties far apart heading into the fifth round of negotiations scheduled for November in Mexico City. (more…)

On Thursday September 21st, President Trump signed Executive Order 13810 Imposing Additional Sanctions with Respect to North Korea (” the E.O.” or “E.O. 13810”).  E.O. 13810 significantly expands the U.S. Treasury Department’s authority to impose a broad range of sanctions unlike those we’ve seen before. The expansion of authority includes the ability to impose “secondary sanctions” on non-U.S. parties who take part in foreign activities involving certain North Korean sectors or entities.  For example, OFAC now has the power to block U.S. correspondent account access to any foreign bank that knowingly conducts or facilitates significant transactions tied to trade with North Korea. (more…)

On August 2nd, President Trump signed into law the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (H.R. 3364), which gives the President the power to solely waive or terminate sanctions against Russia if Congress reviews and approves of the action. President Trump argues that that bill is “seriously flawed” because it encroaches on his authority to conduct foreign affairs. (more…)

American Honda Finance Corporation (American Honda) has settled with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) over potential civil liability for 13 violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), which allegedly occurred between 2011 and 2014. What’s notable is that the matter involved the Canadian affiliate of the global company which was acting entirely independently and outside of the U.S. (more…)

Canada and Mexico have now appointed negotiating teams of seasoned professionals. Canada also has created a NAFTA Council comprised of public and private sector experts from the energy, auto, labor and agricultural fields. Negotiations will begin in the U.S. during the week of August 16. The next round has already been set to take place in Mexico for the week of September 10. Mexico would like the talks completed by the end of the year, well ahead of the 2018 Presidential election next July. The U.S. has so far acquiesced to such a schedule; however, the Canadians may not be as accommodating. (more…)

A recent OFAC enforcement case illustrates that even non-U.S. companies that do business with sanctioned jurisdictions under the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) face significant risks when using U.S. dollar payments. This means that OFAC is claiming jurisdiction over any transaction that’s in U.S. dollars. (more…)