On September 14, 2016, in a joint statement with Myanmar’s State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President Obama announced his intention to terminate the Burma (Myanmar) sanctions program. The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) subsequently issued a new FAQ confirming that the President’s decision will become legally effective upon his issuance of a new Executive Order (“EO”) terminating the national emergency declared with respect to Burma and revoking previous Burma EOs. On that same day, the president signed an EO terminating the Côte d’Ivoire-related sanctions program.
Below we provide a brief synopsis of the history of these two sanctions programs, including their purpose and the circumstances surrounding their termination, or in the case of Myanmar (Burma), imminent termination.
The Burma sanctions program began in May 1997 when the President determined that the Government of Burma (then ruled by a military junta) had committed large-scale political repression and declared a national emergency. The Burma (Myanmar) sanctions program has since been modified a number of times to implement various EOs. For the past decade, the U.S. has taken steps to respond to certain positive developments in Burma’s political climate by easing certain financial, investment, and trade-related sanctions on the country. On December 7, 2015, OFAC issued a six-month general license (which in May 2016 was expanded, incorporated into the Burmese Sanctions Regulations, and extended indefinitely) authorizing, among several other things, certain transactions with designated or blocked persons ordinarily incident to exports of goods, technology, or non-financial services to or from individuals or entities in Burma not subject to sanctions. (For more information on the recent amendments to the Burma sanctions program, please see our previous article here
Until the president issues an EO effectively terminating the Burma sanctions program, the U.S. sanctions on Burma (Myanmar) remain in place and U.S. persons remain generally prohibited from:
- Engaging in transactions involving an SDN or blocked person (unless authorized by general or specific license);
- Exporting financial services to the Burmese Ministry of Defense, any state or non-state armed group, or any entity owned 50 percent or more by one or more such groups;
- Investing pursuant to an agreement with the Burmese Ministry of Defense, any state or non-state armed group, or any entity owned 50 percent or more by one or more such persons; or
- Importing into the U.S. Burmese-origin jadeite, rubies, or articles of jewelry containing such.
It is important to note that the U.S. still maintains an arms embargo on Burma (Myanmar), and it is the policy of the U.S. to deny licenses and other approvals for exports and imports of items controlled under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to or from countries subject to a U.S. arms embargo.
The Côte d’Ivoire sanctions program began in February 2006 when the President declared a national emergency in response to the political violence and conflict in the country, particularly the massacre of civilians, human rights abuses, unrest, and attacks against international peacekeeping forces. While U.S. persons have generally been permitted to engage in transactions with Côte d’Ivoire, transactions with persons designated as SDNs under the Côte d’Ivoire sanctions program were prohibited.
Last week, President Obama terminated the Côte d’Ivoire sanctions program, citing the progress achieved in the stabilization of Côte d’Ivoire, including the successful October 2015 presidential election, as the primary reason for doing so. The president also noted the removal of multilateral sanctions on Côte d’Ivoire by the U.N. Security Council, which occurred in April 2016.
In conjunction with the issuance of the EO, OFAC updated
the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List) with Côte d’Ivoire-related removals.
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Following the U.N. Security Council’s termination of the sanctions regime imposed on Côte d’Ivoire, the U.S. Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) announced that it will review applications for licenses to export or temporarily import ITAR-controlled defense articles and defense services to or from Côte d’Ivoire on a case-by-case basis.