The Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) has issued rules governing exports to Crimea and there’s good news and bad news. The bad news (for exporters): the BIS rule is incomprehensibly written and, arguably, may require you to have a license both from OFAC and BIS for the same export.  The good news (for lawyers):  the BIS rule is incomprehensibly written and, arguably, may require you to have a license both from OFAC and BIS for the same export.

Let’s start with the easy part: BIS amended part 746 of the Export Administration Regulations to add a new section 746.6 to establish a license requirement for exports to the Crimea region of all goods subject to the EAR other than food and medicine.  Note: basic medical supplies, because they are not either food or medicine, are not exempt, apparently on the grounds that the best way to get Putin where it hurts is to make sure that U.S.-origin bandages, hearing aids and hospital beds are kept out of Crimea.  That’ll show him.

But wait a minute.  Didn’t OFAC issue General License 4 permitting the unlicensed export of all items on its list of medical supplies without a license to Crimea?  OFAC, SCHMOFAC — here’s what BIS has to say about that:

The rule establishes a presumption of denial for all such exports or reexports to the Crimea region of Ukraine and transfers within the Crimea region of Ukraine, except with respect to items not exempt from the license requirement but authorized under the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) General License No. 4 (discussed in greater detail in the next paragraph) which BIS will review on a case-by-case basis.

And unlike, as is the case with, say, the Iran rules, where BIS says in section 746.7(a)(2) that if an item is authorized by OFAC no license from BIS will be necessary, the new Crimea rules say no such thing. So, what BIS appears to be saying is that OFAC General License No. 4 is nothing more than guidance that BIS will use when it decides whether to grant a license to export medical supplies to Crimea.

There is one contorted interpretation of General License No. 4 and the BIS statements that would avoid this result. General License No. 4 covers exports by U.S. persons or from the United States. Arguably, this may not cover re-exports of medical supplies with more than a de minimis (25%) U.S. controlled content. Such exports would then be licensed by BIS and these license applications would be considered on a case by case basis (rather than under a presumption of denial) for foreign manufactured medical supplies on the list. The problem with this reading is that the foreign manufactured items would not be “authorized under . . . General License No. 4″ and thus would fall back under the presumption of denial.

The bottom line: even if you have an item on the list of medical supplies and eligible for General License No. 4 that you want to export from the United States, you probably should also file a license application with BIS rather than relying on the general license. Better safe than sorry.