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

The Council of the European Union (the Council) on May 17, 2021 agreed to prolong, for the second time, the sanctions framework concerning restrictive measures against cyber-attacks threatening the European Union (EU) or its Member States for another year, until May 18, 2022. The Council’s press release is available here.

Cyber sanctions are part of the EU cyber diplomacy toolbox and seek to prevent, discourage and respond to malicious cyber-attacks that have a significant impact on the EU. This framework was adopted in May 2019 under Council Decision (CFSP) 2019/797 and Council Regulation (EU) 2019/796, and is reviewed by the Council on a yearly basis. It allows the EU to sanction persons and entities deemed to be involved in major cyber-attacks threatening the EU or its Member States by imposing asset freezes or travel bans against those listed in the Council’s legal acts. The EU can also target those involved in attempted cyber-attacks with a potentially significant effect.

Continue Reading The EU Keeps Its Ability to Sanction Cyber Attackers for One More Year

On April 21, 2021, the EU General Court rendered a judgement on an appeal against the retention of Aisha Qaddafi, the daughter of the late Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, on EU sanctions lists. The judgment confirms the case law according to which the EU Council may, in certain cases, have to produce additional proof to justify the listing of a person, even where this person has been previously designated in a Resolution of the UN Security Council.

Aisha Qaddafi was first listed by the EU in March 2011, shortly after her designation by the UN Security Council. Since then, the EU sanctions lists have been updated several times without any amendments to the listing of Ms. Qaddafi. The contested acts by which the listing of Ms. Qaddafi was maintained and which were adopted in 2017 and 2020, did not mention any new factors other those which had been put forward for the initial listing of her name in 2011. The stated reason for listing her under EU sanctions was the simple fact that she had been designated by the UN Security Council in 2011.

Continue Reading EU General Court lifts sanctions against daughter of Muammar Qaddafi

On April 21, 2021 the European Commission (EC) published its proposal for a Regulation laying down harmonized rules on artificial intelligence, the Artificial Intelligence Act (the Proposal). The EC sets ambitions to play a key role in the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI), not only by coming out the first in the area but also as its Proposal has elements of extraterritorial reach. The EC is proposing a legal framework consisting of rules developed on a risk-based approach that aim to ensure that AI systems are safe, ethical, transparent and human-centered. The overarching goal is to increase trust AI systems to ensure their uptake, which the 2021 Coordinated Plan outlines.

You can find an outline of the Proposal in our infographics available here. The key components are below.

Continue Reading The EU response to AI challenges – Another (risk-based) Regulation

With daily news reports of India’s current COVID crisis worsening, President Biden issued a Presidential Proclamation, effective May 4, 2021, suspending entry to the United States from India for individuals in temporary immigration statuses who have been present in India within the prior 14-day period. The travel restriction does not apply to US citizens or permanent residents or certain relatives of citizens and permanent residents. The Proclamation will remain in effect indefinitely, ending only upon termination by the president.

Economic Travel Suspensions End; Geographic Travel Suspensions Expand

With the change in presidential administrations, travel suspensions which created bars to entry to the United States for many immigration categories that were justified on the basis of economic protection have either been revoked or allowed to expire. (Details of these developments are set out in our February 25, 2021 and April 5, 2021 posts, Biden Administration Revokes Order Suspending Entry into the United States by New Green Card Holders | International Compliance Blog (steptoeinternationalcomplianceblog.com) and Entry Suspension on Temporary Work Visa Categories Ended | International Compliance Blog (steptoeinternationalcomplianceblog.com).) Conversely, health related travel suspensions which limit entry to the United States from designated countries or regions have expanded, with India being the latest addition.

Continue Reading President Suspends Travel from India Effective May 4 Due to COVID Risks

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