On June 9, 2021, the White House issued a new Executive Order (EO) that revokes three Executive Orders issued in 2020 and early 2021 that were aimed specifically at TikTok, WeChat, and eight other China-linked communications and financial technology software applications.

In place of these EOs, the new EO, “Protecting Americans’ Sensitive Data from Foreign Adversaries,” builds on steps the US Commerce Department has already taken under EO 13873 of May 15, 2019, to protect the information and communications technology and services (ICTS) supply chain against threats from China and other identified foreign adversaries.

As a result of the new EO, the US government will further analyze the risks arising from the use of applications such as TikTok and WeChat – including risks related to the security of Americans’ sensitive data — and could take further steps to mitigate those risks, either through existing ICTS regulations or through additional executive and legislative actions.


Continue Reading Biden Administration Revokes TikTok and WeChat Executive Orders, Revises Framework on Security Threats from Foreign Apps

On June 3, 2021, the White House issued an Executive Order (EO) amending EO 13959 of November 12, 2020, which imposed restrictions on US persons transacting in publicly traded securities of companies identified by the US Department of Defense (DoD) as “Communist Chinese military companies” (CCMCs). The new EO, “Addressing the Threat from Securities Investments that Finance Certain Companies of the People’s Republic of China,” reformulates and recasts the prior EO, by providing important clarifications on the scope of the restrictions, revising the criteria for designating Chinese companies under the EO, and shifting responsibility for designations from the DoD to the US Treasury Department.  As a result of these changes, the EO creates a securities-related sanctions regime for so-called “Chinese Military-Industrial Complex Companies” that is effectively separated from the CCMC list maintained by DoD pursuant to Section 1237 of the Fiscal Year 1999 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as amended.  The new EO takes effect on August 2, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time.

In conjunction with the new EO, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published several new and revised Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) explaining the new EO and addressing questions raised by the securities industry since the issuance of EO 13959 in November 2020. Finally, as evidence that the Biden Administration is pursuing a comprehensive effort across the relevant agencies, the DoD released for the first time a “Chinese Military Companies” (CMC) list under Section 1260H of the Fiscal Year 2021 NDAA.


Continue Reading White House Issues Amended Executive Order on Chinese Military-Industrial Securities

On May 18, 2021, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an updated general license under Executive Order (EO) 13959 authorizing US persons to transact in publicly traded securities of entities whose names “closely match” the name of any company previously identified as a Communist Chinese military company (CCMC). The general license (now called General License No. 1B), which was due to expire on May 27, 2021, now expires on June 11, 2021.

For the time being, the restrictions under EO 13959 apply only to entities whose names appear on OFAC’s Non-SDN CCMC List as well as seven entities who are yet to be formally added to OFAC’s Non-SDN CCMC List but were identified by the Department of Defense on January 14, 2021.


Continue Reading OFAC Extends General License for “Close Name Matches” under Executive Order 13959 as Biden Administration Reviews Communist Chinese Military Company Sanctions

On April 20, 2021, the US Department of Energy (“DOE”) revoked a December 2020 Prohibition Order issued by the Trump Administration which banned the acquisition, importation, transfer, or installation of certain bulk-power system (“BPS”) electric equipment manufactured or supplied by “persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of the {People’s Republic of China (“China”)}.”  The Prohibition Order was issued pursuant to EO 13920, “Securing the United States Bulk-Power System” (May 1, 2020), which was promulgated to address “foreign adversary countries creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in the United States bulk-power system.”  In response to this alleged exploitation, the EO declared an emergency and authorized the Secretary of Energy to prohibit transactions involving certain BPS electric equipment sourced from “foreign adversary” countries for one year. In the recent revocation notice, DOE cited the need to “create a stable policy environment” while the Department conducts a new review of how best to apply its EO 13920 authorities.

On January 20, 2021, the Biden Administration suspended EO 13920 for a period of 90 days to afford the Secretary of Energy and Director of the Office of Management and Budget time to consider whether to recommend a replacement Executive Order that “appropriately balances national security, economic, and administrability considerations,” Pursuant to last week’s Request for Information, DOE is now soliciting comments from electric utilities, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on various aspects of electric infrastructure.  Specifically, DOE is soliciting comments on the following questions concerning the development of a long-term strategy:


Continue Reading US Department of Energy Revokes Trump Prohibition Order Restricting Chinese Bulk-Power System Electric Equipment and Seeks Comments on Securing US Critical Electric Infrastructure

On April 19, 2021, OFAC effectively reactivated longstanding sanctions against nine Belarussian companies and their subsidiaries, revoking a general license that had authorized transactions involving those entities since 2015.  These sanctions may impact a significant number of Belarussian companies, as several of the listed entities are large conglomerates.

US sanctions on Belarus were first imposed in 2006 under Executive Order 13405, with similar EU sanctions beginning in 2004, in response to concerns about the electoral process and human rights abuses in Belarus.  However, in 2015, OFAC had issued a general license broadly authorizing transactions with these nine companies and their subsidiaries, but without actually lifting the underlying sanctions.  This limited and conditional sanctions relief in 2015 was part of a coordinated US/EU policy brought about by an improved political and human rights climate in Belarus at the time.  Until now, this general license had regularly been extended since it was first issued in 2015 (as we previously discussed, along with a more detailed history of this sanctions program).


Continue Reading OFAC Reactivates Sanctions against Belarussian Companies and Provides 45-day Wind Down Period

On April 15, 2021, the White House and the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced a package of economic sanctions targeting Russia, including expansive new legal authorities that would allow for the imposition of additional future sanctions on Russia in the technology sector and on Russian government bodies.  OFAC has also issued expanded restrictions on participation in the primary market for Russian sovereign debt, and lending to the Russian government, by US financial institutions.  In addition, OFAC blocked nearly 40 additional individuals and entities for “attempt[ing] to influence the 2020 [US] presidential election” and engaging in certain activities in Crimea.  At the same time, the US Department of State announced the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats.

The centerpiece of the package is Executive Order (“E.O.”) 14024, which, according to an OFAC press release, “elevates the [US] government’s capacity to deploy strategic and economically impactful sanctions to deter and respond to Russia’s destabilizing behavior.”  As the first significant Russia sanctions action by the Biden Administration, E.O. 14024 appears to have been intended to send a strong signal to Russia, but without taking action at this stage that would be highly or disproportionately economically damaging.  In taking this approach, it appears that the Administration has left open the possibility of an improvement in relations with Russia.  Indeed, these sanctions were preceded by President Biden’s April 13th proposal of a possible summit with President Putin to “discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia.”


Continue Reading New Russia Sanctions Focused on the Technology Sector and Sovereign Debt Markets

The Treasury Department has removed the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) from its current list of countries which require or may require participation in, or cooperation with, an international boycott (within the meaning of section 999(b)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code).  Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Yemen remain on the Treasury list.

According to the Treasury Department, the UAE has been removed from the list due to the issuance of Federal Decree-Law No. 4 of 2020, which repealed its law mandating a boycott of Israel, and the subsequent actions that the UAE government has taken to implement the new policy.  The change in law followed the 2020 normalization agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.


Continue Reading Treasury Removes UAE From Boycott List: Possible Implications

In recent weeks, the EU, UK, and US have adopted sanctions against those allegedly involved in the military coup in Myanmar, along with those responsible for serious violations of human rights in overthrowing the democratically elected government or committing violence against protestors. The actions mark a sharp uptick in sanctions measures targeting Myanmar and suggest

Just three days before restrictions under Executive Order (EO) 13959 arising from Xiaomi Corporation’s designation by the US Department of Defense (DoD) as a Communist Chinese military company (CCMC) were to go into effect, on March 15, 2021, the US District Court for the District of Columbia granted Xiaomi’s request for a preliminary injunction order (the Court Order) against enforcement of the restrictions.

Following the Court Order, on March 14, 2021, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published a new Frequently Asked Question (“FAQ”) confirming that, for now, US persons are not prohibited from transacting in publicly traded securities of Xiaomi under EO 13959. OFAC also published a new FAQ concerning the application of EO 13959 to Luokung Technology Corp., which is also designated as a CCMC.


Continue Reading OFAC FAQs Confirm the Suspension of the Restrictions on Xiaomi’s Securities Following District Court Injunction

On March 8, 2021, the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published amendments to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) imposing new export control restrictions on Myanmar (Burma) and adding four entities to the Entity List, in response to a military coup in early February 2021.

The BIS announcements follow the imposition of sanctions on 12 individuals and three entities by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), pursuant to Executive Order 14041 of February 10, 2021.

In addition to designating major military-linked commercial entities to the Entity List, the new EAR amendments make Myanmar ineligible for certain license exceptions and add Myanmar to the list of countries subject to BIS’s military end use / military end user rule (the MEU Rule)—alongside China, Russia, and Venezuela.

For background on the US government’s previous Myanmar-related measures in response to the recent coup, including Executive Order (EO) 14014, see our blog post of February 12, 2021, “Biden Administration Announces Sanctions and Export Controls in Response to Myanmar Coup.”


Continue Reading Commerce Department Issues Significant New Export Controls in Response to Myanmar Coup