Here are five things that happened this week in the world of economic sanctions that I think you should know about.
- The United States, the UK, and Canada announced a fresh round of coordinated Belarus-related sanctions (here, here, and here) on the one-year anniversary of contested Belarusian elections. The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) named 23 individuals and 21 entities as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs), while the UK and Canadian governments expanded their sanctions to cover Belarus’ aviation sector, trade in potash, petroleum, and other goods, and dealings in securities and money-market instruments similar to those adopted by the EU in June 2021.
- In related news, Switzerland’s Federal Council announced new Belarus-related sanctions, also modeled on the EU sanctions. The targets include goods used for monitoring or intercepting internet and telephone communications, petroleum, potash, and goods used to make tobacco products, certain financial instruments, and loans and insurance or reinsurance provided to Belarusian state entities, not to mention the Belarusian air navigation agency, Belaeronavigatsia.
- OFAC named two Cuban officials and the Tropas de Prevención of the Cuban Ministry of Revolutionary Armed Forces as SDNs under the Global Magnitsky Sanctions program following recent protests. Meanwhile, OFAC and the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published a fact sheet summarizing exemptions and licenses authorizing the provision of internet and related communications services to Cuba.
- The US State Department announced the designations of an Oman-based oil broker, four companies, and one vessel as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGTs) under Executive Order 13224. According to a State Department news release, the targets smuggled oil on behalf of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force.
- Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced visa bans against unnamed UK individuals in response to UK sanctions. The official media statement said: “In response to the unfriendly actions of the British authorities and on the basis of the principle of reciprocity, the Russian side has decided to impose personal sanctions on a commensurate number of UK representatives who are closely involved in anti-Russian activities,” (More on this below.)
Is it just me, or does the statement from Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sound a lot like the one made by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in connection with sanctions against former US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and six others on 23 July 2021? Both emphasize the reciprocal nature of their countermeasures while targeting “a commensurate number” of persons as the UK and US sanctions, respectively. Headline grabbing, but not escalatory.
Speaking of countermeasures, we should have some news this week (possibly today) on whether Hong Kong will get its own Anti-Foreign Sanction Law. Still no word on what the law would include or how it would impact companies. Stay tuned for more on that next week. (In the meantime, some wise words from the very excellent Bridge of Spies.)