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fDiOn a recent episode of The fDi Podcast, titled “Hunting for String in the Labyrinth. How Can Investors Safely Navigate Current Sanctions Regime?”, Pillsbury Public Policy partner Matt Oresman joined host Jacopo Dettoni to discuss the current U.S. sanctions landscape and identify some of the important factors businesses must consider to navigate them safely.

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On November 27, 2019, the US Commerce Department published a proposed rule implementing regulations following President Trump’s May 15, 2019 Executive Order 13783 (E.O.) on Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services (ICTS) Supply Chain. The proposed rule adopts an open-ended, case-by-case review framework by which the Commerce Department will be able to evaluate “transactions” and determine if they are prohibited or must be mitigated due to national security concerns. Reviews would be undertaken by the Commerce Department on its own initiative or via referrals from other U.S. Government agencies or private parties.

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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.

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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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