President Trump has signed an Executive Order limiting the Venezuelan government’s access to the U.S. financial system. The new sanctions are the latest in a quick succession of U.S. sanctions measures issued in response to the deteriorating political situation in Venezuela. Notably, while previous U.S. sanctions directives targeted specific Venezuelan individuals and entities only, the new sanctions, for the first time, target the Venezuelan government and the Venezuelan state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA).
On August 2, 2017, President Trump signed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (HR 3364) into law. The bill had received near-unanimous support in Congress. The new law combines three separate sanctions measures: the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act (CIDAA), the Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act (CRIEEA), and the Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act, in an effort to broaden existing U.S. sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea.
On July 31, 2017, the Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced further sanctions against Venezuela, specifically targeting Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Moros. The sanctions against President Maduro are the second set of sanctions that the United States has imposed against Venezuela in the past week, as 13 Venezuelan individuals, including members of the Venezuelan government, were similarly sanctioned by OFAC on July 26, 2017. As a result of the sanctions, all of President Maduro’s assets in the United States have been frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in all dealings (direct and indirect) with him and any entities that are not specifically named on the List of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN), but are owned 50 percent or more in the aggregate by President Maduro.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has recently sanctioned 13 Venezuelan individuals alleged to be involved in human rights abuses and corruption. According to the Trump Administration, the new sanctions were imposed in part to pressure the Venezuelan government not to proceed with a proposed rewrite of the Venezuelan Constitution and, in part, to deter other government officials from participating in the upcoming election of a new constituent assembly to rewrite the Constitution. Importantly, the sanctions designations include one current and one former officer of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), the Venezuelan state oil company. The designation of individuals linked to PDVSA may signal the Trump Administration’s increased willingness to target the core of Venezuela’s petroleum-based economy and, depending on the upcoming events in the Venezuelan political environment, may result in further sanctions in the coming months.
On July 27, 2017, the Senate overwhelmingly passed (98-2) the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (HR 3364), previously passed in the House of Representatives (419-3) on July 25, 2017. This bill combines three separate sanctions measures: the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act (CIDAA), the Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act (CRIEEA), and the Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act, in an effort to broaden existing U.S. sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Now that the bill has passed both the House and Senate, it will be sent to the president. While it remains unclear if President Trump will sign the bill, the near-unanimous House and Senate votes suggest any presidential veto will likely be overridden.
After much anticipation, on June 16, 2017, President Trump announced changes to U.S. policy under the existing embargo against Cuba, which reinstate some pre-Obama restrictions. The changes are relatively minor and are not expected to significantly impact most of the Obama administration’s relaxation in Cuba policy. It remains to be seen exactly how the policy will be implemented through regulatory revisions, but it is clear the changes do not become effective until the revised regulations are issued, which is not expected for a few months.
The UK gives formal notification of intention to leave the European Union
Today, UK Prime Minister Theresa May sent a letter to the European Council, formally notifying it of the UK’s intention to leave the EU.
The notification, made under Article 50 of the EU Treaty, triggers a two-year process of negotiation of the terms on which the UK will exit the EU. Unless there is unanimous agreement between the UK and the other 27 Member States to extend the timetable, the UK will exit the EU by 29 March 2019, with or without exit terms.
The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) maintains mandatory reporting requirements for foreign investment into the United States via its Form BE-13 for most transactions in which a non-U.S. entity (1) acquires an ownership interest in a U.S. entity or real estate; or (2) establishes a new U.S. business enterprise in the United States. Reporting may also be required if a foreign entity expands its existing U.S. operations. In each case, even indirect foreign investment (for example, a foreign parent company uses one of its existing U.S. subsidiaries to buy another U.S. company) may trigger a BE-13 filing requirement.
Effective Jan. 17, 2017, the U.S. government significantly eased restrictions on transactions between U.S. persons and Sudan, against which comprehensive sanctions had previously been in place. Specifically, on Jan. 13, 2017, President Obama issued an Executive Order (EO), “Recognizing Positive Actions by the government of Sudan and Providing for the Revocation of Certain Sudan-Related Sanctions,” which added a new Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) general license (GL) authorizing all transactions previously prohibited under the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (SSR). The new GL is valid for a period of six months. Provided the government of Sudan sustains the “positive actions” that led to the move, the EO provides for the final termination of the SSR July 12, 2017.
In late December 2016 and early January 2017, the U.S. government took action to sanction Russian individuals and intelligence agencies determined to be involved in hacking activities related to the November U.S. presidential election.