The U.S. Government has amended the Crimea sanctions, in part, to foster and support the free flow of information to individual citizens in the Crimea region of Ukraine (Crimea) and to ensure that the sanctions against Crimea do not have the unintended effect of preventing companies from providing personal communications tools to individuals in Crimea. In 2010, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) made similar amendments to the sanctions programs for Iran, Sudan, and Cuba to ensure that individuals in these countries can exercise their universal right to free speech and information to the greatest extent possible. Specifically, on May 22, 2015, OFAC issued General License (GL) No. 9 authorizing the export or reexport of software and services related to Internet-based communications (e.g., email, instant messaging, chat, social networking, or blogging) to Crimea, with certain restrictions. This would permit, for example, U.S. software or app developers to allow users in Crimea to purchase and/or download products that support and enable Internet-based communications.
On April 2, 2015, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) plus Germany, the European Union, and Iran came to agreement on a framework for achieving a final deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program. This framework forms the foundation for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that is expected to be finalized by the end of June. In this GT Alert, the authors discuss the key elements of the framework for the JCPOA and the impact on those conducting business in or with Iran.
On April 14, 2015, President Obama announced the removal of Cuba from the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, a move that will allow the elimination of certain economic sanctions and pave the way for the restoration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba. In this GT Alert, the authors discuss the implications of the delisting.
On March 11, 2015, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed new Ukraine-related targeted sanctions on several Russian and Ukrainian individuals and entities in response to Russian violations of the ceasefire brokered in February 2015 between the parties associated with separatist violence in Ukraine. The newest measures add 14 specific individuals and two entities to OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN). The list of newly-designated individuals includes several Ukrainian separatists, and the list of newly-designated entities includes the Russian National Commercial Bank, a Russian bank operating in the Crimea region of Ukraine.
On Jan. 16, 2015, the U.S. Government will amend the existing Cuba-related regulations allowing certain types of travel, remittances, financial transactions and exports to Cuba.
The regulations will be effective immediately upon publication of the Jan. 16, 2015 notice. The regulations implement President Obama’s Dec. 17, 2014, announcement of a policy change with respect to the U.S. embargo on Cuba. While the amended regulations will expand the types and amounts of transactions in which U.S. persons can engage with Cuba, the United States nevertheless maintains a nearly comprehensive embargo on trade with Cuba. U.S. persons may only engage in transactions that are licensed or otherwise specifically authorized.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has reinstated a previously dormant reporting requirement via Form BE-13 for certain new foreign direct investment in the United States. The reporting requirement applies retroactively. Qualifying investment transactions that occurred during 2014 prior to Nov. 26, 2014, must be reported by Jan. 12, 2015. Qualifying investment transactions that occurred on or after Nov. 26, 2014, are required to be reported within 45 days of the qualifying transaction.
U.S. companies required to file Form BE-13 (or Form BE-13 Claim for Exemption) may file a request for an extension with BEA. Unlike BEA reports relating to foreign investment, the Form BE-13 is mandatory for all U.S. businesses subject to the reporting requirement, regardless of whether the U.S. businesses have been specifically contacted by BEA.
On Jan. 2, 2015, President Obama signed an Executive Order expanding the scope of the current U.S. sanctions against North Korea. The expanded sanctions are directed primarily at the government of North Korea and associated entities and individuals. Pursuant to the new sanctions, the property of three North Korean governmental entities and 10 associated individuals has been blocked, and the entry of those individuals into the United States has been banned. In a prepared statement, the White House stated that the new sanctions are “a response to the Government of North Korea’s ongoing provocative, destabilizing, and repressive actions and policies, particularly its destructive and coercive cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment.” The Executive Order imposing new sanctions with respect to North Korea is described below and is available here.
On Dec. 30, 2014, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Ukraine-related General License No. 5 authorizing U.S. persons to engage in activities ordinarily incident and necessary to winding down U.S. person activity with or in the Crimea region of Ukraine (Crimea) that existed prior to Dec. 20, 2014. Specifically, General License No. 5 authorizes U.S. persons to wind down U.S. person ownership shares in pre-Dec. 20, 2014 investments located in Crimea, as well as authorizes U.S. persons to wind down operations, contracts, or other agreements that were in effect prior to Dec. 20, 2014 involving the import, export, reexport, sale, or supply of goods, services, or technology from Crimea. General License No. 5 is described below and is available here.
On Dec. 19, 2014, President Obama signed an Executive Order prohibiting most transactions by U.S. persons with respect to the Crimea Region of Ukraine (Crimea) and blocking the property of certain individuals and entities (together, Crimea Sanctions). Additionally, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued General License No. 4, providing limited relief to the new restrictions by authorizing the export and reexport of certain agricultural commodities, medicine, medical supplies, and replacement parts to Crimea. The Executive Order and General License No. 4 are described below.
The European Union (EU) adopted new sanctions Friday, Dec. 19, 2014, relating to the conflict situation in Ukraine. The sanctions specifically target Crimea and Sevastopol. The new measures confirm, once again that the EU does not recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, which occurred earlier this year.