On February 18, 2021, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) entered into a settlement of $507,375 with BitPay Inc. for violations of multiple U.S. sanctions programs. According to the settlement, BitPay allowed its platform to be used by persons in Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Syria and the Crimea region to transact with merchants in the United States. The latest settlement is noteworthy for the involvement of a digital currency service provider and its discussion of OFAC’s expectations regarding compliance for companies in this growing financial and commercial sector.
In response to the recent military coup in Myanmar (also known as Burma) against the democratically-elected government, on February 11, 2021 the Biden Administration issued an Executive Order on Blocking Property with Respect to the Situation in Burma (E.O.), which launched a new targeted sanctions regime. That same day, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated former and current officials of Burma’s military or security forces and affiliated entities in the jade and gems sector as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs). In addition, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced a series of steps to tighten export controls on certain ministries, armed forces, and security services, and to limit availability of license exceptions. It has been indicated that these are initial steps, and that further sanctions and export control may follow.
On January 25, 2021, President Biden issued Executive Order (E.O.) 14005 to implement the President’s domestic sourcing and manufacturing policy agenda by tightening federal procurement and contracting requirements and directing rulemaking to favor domestic companies in federal contracts. The E.O.’s aim is to strengthen “Made in America Laws,” which refers to all regulations, rules, and executive orders relating to federal financial assistance awards or federal procurement, including the “Buy American Act.”
On January 13, 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a withhold-release order (WRO) on all cotton and tomato products from China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR) based on information that reasonably indicated that such products used forced labor. This action comes after CBP’s December 2020 WRO on cotton and cotton products produced by Xinjiang Production and Construction Corporation (XPCC). Continue reading →
On January 10, 2021, then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated Ansarallah, an armed militia in Yemen backed by Iran also known as the “Houthis,” as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) and as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs). Secretary Pompeo also designated three Ansarallah leaders—Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi and Abdullah Yahya al Hakim—as SDGTs. The new designations and sanctions went into effect on January 19, 2021.
On January 19, the European Commission released a strategy intended to “stimulate the openness, strength and resilience of the EU’s economic and financial system.” One of the key pillars of the strategy is centered around strengthening the implementation and enforcement of EU sanctions.
The strategy highlights current weaknesses in the EU sanctions regime, including the lack of uniformity in application and enforcement between Member States. It is thought that these inconsistencies create uncertainty and assist in sanctions evasion.
On January 19, 2021, the Commerce Department issued an interim final rule to implement the Executive Order on Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain (E.O. 13873), which was issued on May 15, 2019. The interim rule comes after the November 2019 proposed rule implementing E.O. 13873.
On December 21, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published a Military End User (MEU) list to further implement the military end user/end use (MEU) rule defined in Section 744.21 of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). An EAR license is required to export or reexport to the listed entities a broad range of items subject to U.S. jurisdiction.
On December 14, 2020, the U.S. Department of State initiated a series of sanctions pursuant to Section 231 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that target the Turkish Presidency of Defense Industries (SSB). The sanctions deny new U.S. export licenses to SSB and limit the SSB’s access to credit from U.S. and international financial institutions. In addition, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated several principal executive officers of SSB as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs). However, the U.S. action is calibrated, and does not designate SSB or its affiliates as SDNs, nor does it apply broader sanctions on Turkey or the Turkish defense industry.
On December 14, 2020 the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published an interim final rule (Interim Rule) making changes to the process for seeking exclusions from tariffs imposed on steel and aluminum imports under section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 (section 232). The current rule is the fourth in a series of interim final rules that have, over the course of two years, periodically revised the section 232 exclusion process since it was first implemented in March 2018.