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, the EU Council added two companies controlled by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Armed Forces) as well as 10 individuals to its Myanmar sanctions list (see Council Decision (CFSP) 2021/639 and Council Regulation 2021/638). The EU Council designated these entities and individuals by relying on the extended designation criteria established by Council Decision (CFSP) 2021/482 and Council Regulation 2021/479 on March 22, 2021, which provide for the possibility to impose restrictive measures against those involved in activities undermining democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar, as well as against the economic interests of the Tatmadaw. The EU Council had already adopted sanctions against eleven individuals on March 22, 2021 (see our previous client alert).

The new listings include:

  • Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited (MEC) as they are owned and controlled by the Tatmadaw and generate revenue for the Tatmadaw.
  • U Chit Naing, Minister for Information and Chairman of the State Administrative Council. He is deemed responsible for junta propaganda and spreading disinformation through state media, as well as for decisions that led to the crackdown on Myanmar media.
  • Nine members of the State Administrative Council, that are considered to undermine democracy and the rule of law, and responsible for serious human rights violations. These include Mahn Nyein Maung; Thein Nyunt; Khin Maung Swe; Jeng Phang Naw Htaung; Maung Ha; Sai Long Hseng; Saw Daniel; Dr Banyar Aung Moe; and Aye Nu Sein (also Vice-chair of the Arakan National Party).

Continue Reading EU Imposes Additional Sanctions against Two Military-Controlled Companies and 10 Individuals in Relation to the Military Coup in Myanmar

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

The Presidential Proclamation prohibiting entry to the US by foreign nationals in key temporary, employment-based, immigration categories expired on March 31, 2021. As expected, the Biden administration permitted Presidential Proclamation 10052 to remain effective through to expiration, but did not extend the broad restrictions on certain H-1B (temporary professional), H-2B (temporary non-agricultural worker), J (exchange visitor) and L-1(intra-company transferee) foreign nationals. This reversal of a policy which began on June 22, 2020, is significant for multinational companies and others who rely upon foreign talent within the specified categories.

Economic Travel Suspension Background and Developments

The economic hardships experienced as a result of the COVID pandemic served as the basis for Presidential Proclamations limiting the ability of foreign nationals to enter the US in specific immigrant (permanent) and temporary (non-immigrant) immigration categories.  These broad Presidentially-created restrictions, precluded large numbers of foreign nationals who otherwise met existing legal and regulatory immigration requirements from obtaining visas and/or entering the US. As of March 31, 2021, both restrictions have ended.

We discussed the termination of the economically-based immigrant suspension in our February 25, 2021 Client Alert, Biden Administration Revokes Order Suspending Entry into the United States by New Green Card Holders. As noted in that Alert, the President proactively revoked the immigrant (green card) suspension, but allowed the non-immigrant (H-1B, H-2B, J and L-1) restrictions to remain in place. With the passage of time (and with the absence of an extension) the non-immigrant restrictions are now seemingly safely in the past.

Continue Reading Entry Suspension on Temporary Work Visa Categories Ended

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 close coordination between the three jurisdictions.

Additionally, on March 25, the UK and US took coordinated action, going beyond the measures imposed by the EU, to impose sanctions on certain holding companies controlled by the Myanmar military, a development that may have significant implications for persons doing business in Myanmar.

For more on EU, UK, and US sanctions related to Myanmar, click here to read the full Client Alert or contact a lawyer in Steptoe’s Economic Sanctions practice.

On March 22, 2021, the EU, UK, US and Canada announced a range of coordinated sanctions to crack down on alleged serious human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR).  The coordinated announcements comprised measures of various types, including asset freezes and travel bans against individuals and entities alleged to be involved in serious human rights violations against Uyghurs and other minority groups in the XUAR.  The measures elicited the swift imposition of retaliatory sanctions by China against a group of EU individuals and institutions.

Continue Reading EU, UK, US and Canada Announce Coordinated Xinjiang Sanctions

On March 11, 2021, the Home Office launched an online registry for organisations required to publish annual modern slavery statements under Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (“MSA”).  The launch of the registry makes good on one of a series of commitments made by the UK government in October 2020 to strengthen the transparency in supply chains provision of the MSA, which we discussed in greater detail in a previous blog post (here).

Commercial organisations that carry on all or part of a business in the United Kingdom and have a total annual turnover of £36 million or more currently are required to publish a modern slavery statement reporting on the steps that they have taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking are not taking place in their business or supply chains.

The UK government’s 2020 UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery reported that 17 percent of covered organisations had not published a modern slavery statement and were unlikely to be covered by a group modern slavery statement.  One goal of the new registry is to enable the UK government to more effectively monitor compliance with the reporting obligations imposed by the MSA.

Continue Reading UK Government Acts on Commitment to Tackle Modern Slavery in Supply Chains with Centralised Modern Slavery Statement Registry

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