U.S. and EU Extend Deadline for Deal in Iran Nuclear Talks

Posted in United Nations Actions

On June 30, 2015, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) plus Germany, the European Union, and Iran agreed to extend by seven days their self-imposed deadline for finalizing a deal regarding Iran’s nuclear program. The so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is now expected to be finalized by July 7, 2015.

The parties to the negotiations reached an agreement on a framework for a final deal on April 2, 2015, with the expectation that the details would be finalized by the end of June. Under the framework, it is expected that Iran would receive limited sanctions relief if it abides by its nuclear-related commitments. Specifically, U.S. and EU nuclear-related sanctions would be suspended once the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has verified that Iran has complied with all of its nuclear-related obligations. How the parties (particularly the United States) will differentiate nuclear-related sanctions from all others currently applied against Iran (such as human rights, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism-related sanctions) remains to be seen. The full details of any deal are speculative until a formal agreement is reached and made public by the parties to the negotiation.

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U.S. and Cuba to Re-establish Diplomatic Relations

Posted in US-Cuba relations

Further to President Obama’s initial announcement in December 2014 of planned restoration of diplomatic ties on July 1, 2015, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the United States will restore formal diplomatic relations with Cuba and specifically that embassies will be re-established in Washington and Havana after more than 50 years. Uncertainty remains about the Congressional authorizations that will likely be required to fund refurbishing and reopening the embassy in Havana, as well as any appointment of a U.S. ambassador to Cuba.

The move reflects a significant change in U.S.-Cuba relations, but is unlikely to result in any immediate, significant easing of the U.S. sanctions and exports controls now imposed on Cuba. Most of the U.S. sanctions and export controls against Cuba are mandated by a statutory embargo and various related statutes that Congress has so far declined to lift or amend. As a result, most Cuba-related transactions remain prohibited under U.S. law at this time.

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President Obama Overcomes Domestic Political Obstacles to Advance Trade Agenda

Posted in Foreign Trade

Following the House’s lead, the Senate passed trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation late yesterday afternoon. Passage of this legislation – also known as fast-track authority – is a significant victory for President Obama’s trade agenda. In short, TPA provides the president with the authority to negotiate trade agreements with other nations while also denying Congress the ability to amend any agreement brought before the body for approval. The legislation is considered a prerequisite to completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Supporters of free trade argue that trading partners are more likely to make concessions if they know the agreement cannot be changed.

The road to victory was not an easy one. From the start, TPA faced strong opposition from President Obama’s own party and several interest groups. The strongest opposition came from labor groups. The largest labor group in the U.S. – AFL-CIO – infamously warned that any members voting for TPA would receive no future contributions from the organization. The group went so far as to threaten the funding of challenger-candidates for any member of Congress who voted for TPA. The debate, however, has not been one-sided. Agriculture groups have matched the efforts of labor groups and other opponents on Capitol Hill.

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The US-EAC Cooperation Agreement and Expanded Opportunities in Africa

Posted in Foreign Investment

shutterstock_167044940The following post was originally published on Greenberg Traurig’s Doing Business in Africa blog, which includes a number of posts about the investment potential and pitfalls awaiting those who are interested in doing business in Africa.

The United States and the East African Community (EAC), a regional trade bloc, recently signed theU.S.-EAC Cooperation Agreement, which seeks to improve trade through customs facilitation between the United States and the five member countries of the EAC: Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda. This agreement represents the commitment of both the United States and the EAC to deepen their ties through trade along three objectives:

  • Implement the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement
  • Enhance food safety, and plant and animal health
  • Improve technical regulations, standards, testing, and certification

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Cuba Removed from U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism List

Posted in US-Cuba relations

Further to our previous Alert summarizing the President’s April notification to Congress of his intent to remove Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (SSOT), the required 45-day period for Congressional notice expired on May 29, 2015, and, as a result, Cuba’s SSOT designation was officially rescinded. President Obama had formally submitted the statutorily required delisting notification to Congress, certifying that Cuba had not provided support for international terrorism in the past six months and would not in the future. Congress raised no formal opposition to the President’s notification, clearing the way for the Secretary of State to remove Cuba from the list effective May 29, 2015.

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U.S. Treasury & Commerce Departments Issue New Crimea Authorizations and Clarifications

Posted in Sanctions

shutterstock_181093370_CarouselThe 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.

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U.S. and EU Achieve Framework for Deal in Iran Nuclear Talks

Posted in Sanctions, United Nations Actions

shutterstock_189226334_CarouselOn 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.

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Cuba to Be Removed from U.S. State Sponsors of Terrorism List

Posted in Sanctions, US-Cuba relations

shutterstock_36348019_v1On 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.

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U.S. Adds to its List of Ukraine-Related Sanctions

Posted in Sanctions

shutterstock_181093370_CarouselOn 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.

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U.S. Amends Cuba Regulations to Allow Additional Trade

Posted in ITC, WTO

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.

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