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The U.S. Treasury Department has issued sanctions designations against Turkey’s Ministry of National Defense, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, and the Ministers of Defense, Energy and Interior pursuant to a new Executive Order issued on October 14, 2019 by President Trump in response to Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria. The Executive Order authorizes secondary sanctions and can expose non-U.S. companies and financial institutions interacting with designated Turkish parties to risk of penalties.

All property and interests in property of these government agencies and officials are blocked and transactions and services are prohibited. This includes any entities in which the ministries or individual ministers have a 50 percent or more interest (individually or in the aggregate). U.S. sanctions jurisdiction applies to:

  • Persons, activity and property in the United States;
  • U.S. persons wherever they are located in the world; and
  • Transactions in U.S. dollars that clear the U.S. financial system.

U.S. persons and non-U.S. persons in the United States may not facilitate activity with blocked persons or property outside the United States that would be prohibited for them directly.

There are three general licenses issued with the Executive Order that (1) allow the official business of the U.S. government to continue with the sanctioned parties (which would include military cooperation and foreign military sales); (2) authorize until November 13, 2019 certain activities necessary for the wind down of existing contracts relating to the Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources; and (3) permit certain activities by international organization.

The Executive Order provides for secondary sanctions on persons not subject to U.S. jurisdiction that materially assist, provide financial, material or technological support, or goods or services to persons designated under the Executive Order. In addition, for non-U.S. financial institutions determined to knowingly conduct or facilitate a significant financial transaction for, or on behalf of, a person blocked by the Treasury Department, the Executive Order authorizes secondary sanctions to prohibit or restrict correspondent and payable-through accounts with U.S. banks.

The Executive Order provides broad authority to the U.S. Treasury Secretary to make additional sanctions designations for persons determined to engage in actions that threaten peace, security, stability or territorial integrity of Syria; commission of human rights abuses; being a Government of Turkey official or subdivision / agency / instrumentality; or operate in a sector of the Turkish economy (making any Turkish company or foreign company operating in the country a potential target). The Secretary of State is given authority to designate (i) persons engaging in activity or finance that disrupts peace, ceasefire, resettlement and other ongoing or future diplomatic efforts in Syria; (ii) an adult family member of such persons; or (iii) persons responsible for or complicit in the expropriation of property, including real property, for personal gain or political purposes in Syria. The Executive Order provides for a menu of sanctions including procurement and visa bans; limitations on access to loans, finance, foreign exchange or transfers of credits and payments; equity and investment prohibitions; import/trade prohibitions; and sanctions on officers of legal entities.

In addition to sanctions pursuant to the Executive Order, the U.S. Congress is actively working on legislation that could apply additional sanctions to Turkey and parties in Syria. Legislative drafts and related negotiations are moving quickly, and it is not yet clear what form these sanctions will take.

The conflict along the Turkey-Syria border is ongoing and unpredictable, as is the course of U.S. policy. Turkey is a NATO ally and the Turkish economy is integrated with the west. Companies doing business in or with Turkey, companies in the energy or defense industries operating in Europe or the Middle East, and all banks should be aware of and monitor for exposure to these existing sanctions and for any developments.

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On September 17, 2019, the U.S. Department of Treasury issued two new proposed rules for the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) implementing the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA), which was enacted in August 2018. The first proposed rule covers, among other things, FIRRMA’s expansion of CFIUS’ jurisdiction to non-controlling investments in U.S. businesses engaged in critical technology, critical infrastructure and sensitive personal data. The second proposed rule addresses FIRRMA’s expansion of CFIUS’ jurisdiction over certain real estate transactions.

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On September 1, a new round of Section 301 duties will be imposed on “List 4” products. President Trump previously announced plans for these duties, but had delayed implementation in June citing progress on the negotiations with China leading up to the G20 summit. Reportedly, however, the recently resumed talks have not led to the progress desired by the Administration. In his series of tweets announcing the 10 percent tariff, President Trump stated that China had failed to purchase increased quantities of U.S. agricultural goods and reduce the flow of fentanyl into the United States.

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Recent comments from Bureau of Industry (BIS) officials at the BIS Update indicate the U.S. Government is progressing towards more detailed proposed rules with respect to both “emerging” and “foundational” technologies that will become subject to future export controls. This required rulemaking is part of an interagency effort mandated by the Export Control Reform Act (ECRA) of 2018.

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Recently, third parties have been petitioning the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to initiate investigations into forced labor violations involving specific manufacturers/exporters and specific merchandise. In “Slavery in Supply Chains: CBP Petitions Raise New Forced Labor Compliance Risks,” colleagues Nancy A. FischerSahar J. HafeezFabio Leonardi and Stephanie T. Rosenberg examine the role these petitions play in the growing fight against corporate modern slavery and how proactively engaging in corporate modern slavery compliance is necessary from both corporate social responsibility and risk management perspectives.

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As trade relations with China continue to evolve, Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. (“Huawei”) and its foreign affiliates remain subject to broad U.S. export license requirements. However, President Trump’s statements at the G20 Summit on the relaxation of restrictions on Huawei were followed by recent senior administration officials’ announcements, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, that export licenses may be possible where the proposed transaction does not implicate U.S. national security.

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) maintains the Entity List, which is comprised of individuals and entities subject to U.S. export licensing requirements for exports, re-exports and in-country transfers of items subject to the Commerce Department’s export control jurisdiction. On May 16, 2019, BIS added Huawei and 68 affiliates to the Entity List, creating a license requirement for all items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”). This designation means that licenses are required for all exports and re-exports to Huawei of U.S.-origin goods, including “EAR99” items that are not identified on the Commerce Department’s dual-use Commerce Control List (“CCL”). “Items subject to the EAR” can also include non-U.S. made items in certain circumstances, such as where they contain more than a de minimis amount of controlled U.S.-origin content, or are a “direct product” of certain controlled U.S.-origin technology. The official licensing policy for exports to Huawei is a “presumption of denial.”

BIS subsequently issued a Temporary General License authorizing a narrow subset of transactions through August 19, 2019. Temporarily authorized transactions include those relating to:

  • Continued operation of existing networks and equipment: Transactions necessary to maintain and support existing and currently fully operational networks and equipment, including software updates and patches, subject to legally binding contracts and agreements executed between Huawei on or before May 16, 2019.
  • Support to existing handsets: Transactions necessary to provide service and support, including software updates or patches, to existing models of Huawei handsets that were available to the public on or before May 16, 2019.
  • Cybersecurity research and vulnerability disclosure: The disclosure to Huawei of information regarding security vulnerabilities in items owned, possessed, or controlled by Huawei when related to the process of providing ongoing security research critical to maintaining the integrity and reliability of existing and currently fully operational networks and equipment, as well as handsets.
  • Engagement as necessary for development of 5G standards by a duly recognized standards body: Transactions necessary for the development of 5G standards as part of a duly recognized international standards body. U.S. and non-U.S. companies dealing in items subject to the EAR should be aware that Huawei is still on the Entity List and remains subject to broad export licensing requirements. The Temporary General License authorizes certain limited exports to Huawei until August 19, 2019, and could signal the types of activities that would be viewed favorably in a license request. For activities outside the scope of the Temporary General License, exporters may consider submitting license applications for exports to Huawei or its supply chain where they believe the U.S. government would not have national security concerns.

Since its designation, interested U.S. and non-U.S. parties have questioned whether Huawei’s Entity List designation will remain permanent. President Trump made statements that the U.S. would lift some of the restrictions on Huawei following a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping to reengage the stalled China-U.S. trade talks. On July 9, 2019, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross indicated that Huawei will remain on the Entity List with the same export licensing requirements. In other words, exports to Huawei of any items subject to the EAR (including EAR99 items) will continue to require a license subject to an official policy of a “presumption of denial.” However, Secretary Ross left open the possibility that BIS may grant licenses where the proposed exports do not threaten national security. He further stated: “Within those confines we will try to make sure that we don’t just transfer revenue from the U.S. to foreign firms.” BIS has not released any official guidance announcing any specific criteria that would need to be met in order to obtain a license.

U.S. and non-U.S. companies dealing in items subject to the EAR should be aware that Huawei is still on the Entity List and remains subject to broad export licensing requirements. The Temporary General License authorizes certain limited exports to Huawei until August 19, 2019, and could signal the types of activities that would be viewed favorably in a license request. For activities outside the scope of the Temporary General License, exporters may consider submitting license applications for exports to Huawei or its supply chain where they believe the U.S. government would not have national security concerns.

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Announced last week, “INSTEX had been made operational and available to all EU Member States.” INSTEX is the special purpose financing channel designed by the EU to permit the processing of payments for trade between the EU and Iran. INSTEX was deemed necessary by the EU in light of the refusal by many private banks to process payments for trade between the EU and Iran that continues to be authorized by the EU despite the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) resulting in the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions.

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On June 5, 2019, the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) amended an important license exception which generally permitted the temporary sojourn of civil aircraft and vessels to Cuba. Specifically, BIS eliminated the license exception for use by non-commercial aircraft and passenger and recreational vessels sailing to Cuba. BIS also amended its licensing policy for such aircraft and vessels establishing a general policy of denial. On the same day, the Department of the Treasury eliminated its authorization for group people-to-people educational travel to Cuba.

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On May 21, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) established a process through which U.S. stakeholders may exclude products included in List 3 from a 25% tariff imposed pursuant to the investigation of China’s intellectual property practices under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 (“Section 301”) (discussed here). The window to submit exclusion requests will open “on or around” June 30.

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On May 16, 2019, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce added Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. (Huawei) and sixty-eight of its non-U.S. affiliates to the Entity List, thereby prohibiting the export or transfer of U.S. commercial and dual-use goods, software and technology to those companies without a license. Non-U.S. goods or software with more than “de minimis” U.S. content are also subject to the restrictions.

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