On March 30, 2016, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew addressed the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, commenting on the evolution of economic sanctions programs as a tool for US foreign policy. He emphasized the importance of using sanctions, but also cautioned against overusing sanctions and using sanctions where they may have a negligible impact. Critically, Lew noted that economic sanctions are meant to be forward-looking and to change future behavior, rather than to be punitive for past bad actions. Focusing on three key lessons that apply to the appropriate use of sanctions, Lew noted the importance of (i) working with US allies to have broad, international support for economic sanctions; (ii) recognizing the appropriate time to provide relief from sanctions in order to preserve US credibility and the ability to use sanctions programs to motivate behavior changes; and (iii) investing in infrastructure to help implement and support targeted sanctions programs. Secretary Lew remarked on the high costs of sanctions programs, and the potential for overuse to result in negative externalities, including driving business and financial transactions outside of the US.
Treasury Secretary Lew’s speech is available at: https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl0398.aspx.