On 22 March 2021, the EU added 11 Burmese officials responsible for last month’s military coup in Myanmar to its sanctions list. The designations are made in response to “the illegitimate over-throwing of the democratically-elected government and the brutal repression by the junta against peaceful protesters” under Council Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/478 and Council Decision 2021/483. (See the EU Press Release.) The U.S. government issued a statement highlighting the EU action and those of other countries and announced further sanctions designations of its own.
U.S. officials have continued to use a range of policy tools to apply pressure on the military leadership of Myanmar (also known as Burma) in response to the military coup in the country and escalating violence against peaceful protestors. These moves have continued to follow a step-by-step approach, with important export control and sanctions additions thus far in March 2021.
On March 2, 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Asset Controls (OFAC) imposed sanctions on two key militant leaders of the Iranian-backed Ansarallah, also known as the Houthis. OFAC sanctions target Mansur Al-Sa’adi, Houthi naval forces chief of staff, and Ahmad ‘Ali Ahsan al-Hamzi, commander of Houthi air force and air defense forces.
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.