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 EU, the UK, and Canada rolled out coordinated sanctions aimed at a total of four officials and one entity in China in response to alleged human rights abuses in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR). (Announcements here, here, here, and here.)
- China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reacted by announcing retaliatory sanctions on a total of 22 individuals and nine entities in the United States and Canada, the UK, and the EU. (Announcements here, here, and here). According to the statements, the targets will be barred from entering mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macao, and are subject to various business restrictions in China or with Chinese individuals and organizations. (More on this below.)
- The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) named Myanmar Economic Holding Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) under Executive Order 14014. The UK also sanctioned MEHL. Earlier in the week, OFAC and the EU announced other Myanmar designations (here and here). (For more on the Myanmar sanctions read my colleagues’ briefing here.)
- Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced sanctions on nine Russian officials in response to allegations of gross and systematic violations of human rights. According to an announcement, the Canadian sanctions “are in line with measures previously taken by the European Union and the United States” in connection with the Alexey Navalny case.
- OFAC announced a USD 950,000 settlement with an Italian equipment manufacturer for violating the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR). According to the OFAC settlement notice, the company procured parts from US exporters and disguised the fact that they intended to re-export them to customers in Iran.
Are last week’s PRC sanctions “real” sanctions? In a sense they are because they identify specific targets (e.g., named officials) and consequences (e.g., a visa bans). On the other hand, the statements do not point to a law or regulation authorizing the sanctions, what the penalty for breaching them is, or where to go for guidance. As far as I know, there isn’t a sanctions list to consult, and the announcements provide no identifying information on the targets. Compare this to the fairly detailed Provisions for the Unreliable Entity List (UEL) outlined by the PRC Ministry of Commerce in September 2020. (Interesting the UEL isn’t being used here.)
China is a big and important country, and it has as much right to impose unilateral sanctions as the United States, the EU, and other nations. But its regulatory framework for sanctions is still developing. These announcements will surely be implemented through governmental channels, and Tony Perkins won’t be opening a bank account in China soon. But it’s not quite the SDN List (yet).
OFAC’s sanctions against Myanmar’s MEHL and MEC are a big deal. Join me and Dr. Rocco Macchiavello for a talk hosted by CountryRisk.io about international sanctions and Myanmar’s economy on Wednesday, 7 April, at 3:00 p.m. Zurich time (9:00 p.m. Hong Kong). Register here.
(The views expressed are my own and do not constitute legal advice. Photo from Vladislav Reshetnyak.)