The US Government has continued to ease its economic sanctions directed at  Burma (also called Myanmar).  On November 19, 2012, President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton traveled to Burma and met with Burmese President Thein Sein, as well opposition leader and parliament member Aung San Suu Kyi.  Shortly before that trip, on November 16, 2012, the US Department of State, pursuant to a delegation of authority from the President, waived the ban on the importation of products of Burma set forth in section 3(a) of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 (BFDA) as  implemented by section 3 of Executive Order 13310 of July 28, 2003. 

In conjunction with this waiver, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued General License No. 18, authorizing “the importation into the United States of any article that is a product of Burma,” subject to certain limitations.  General License No. 18 does not authorize the importation into the United States of jadeite or rubies mined or extracted from Burma, or of articles of jewelry containing jadeite or rubies mined or extracted from Burma, or of jadeite or rubies or articles of jewelry containing jadeite or rubies mined or extracted from countries other than Burma, without agreeing to maintain records and provide information as described in Section 3A of the BFDA, as amended by the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008.

Not all of the US Government’s recent actions with respect to Burma resulted in less stringent restrictions, however.  Also on November 16, 2012, OFAC added seven entities to its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List and updated the alias of an already sanctioned entity.  The seven newly-designated entities include front companies owned or controlled by Steven Law and Tay Za, both of whom were associated with the former Burmese military regime.  All property and interests in property of these entities that are in, or thereafter come within, the United States, or within the possession or control of US persons, are blocked.

These measures reflect the United States’ continued recognition of substantial political reforms that have taken place in Burma.  As discussed in our previous advisories, on April 4, 2012, Secretary of State Clinton announced, after the conclusion of parliamentary elections in Burma, that the United States was planning a “targeted easing” of bans on the export of US financial services and investment in Burma.  On April 17, 2012, the United States took its first step toward easing US economic sanctions against Burma, when OFAC issued General License No. 14-C, authorizing US persons to export financial services in support of humanitarian, religious, and other not-for-profit activities in Burma.  And on July 11, 2012, OFAC issued General License No. 16 and General License No. 17, authorizing US persons to export financial services to Burma and to make new investments in Burma, subject to certain conditions and restrictions.

While the revised US sanctions policy toward Burma and its political leaders recognizes the substantial political reforms that have taken place in Burma, it also reflects the Administration’s phased approach based on the progress of continued reforms.  Notably, the above measures do not withdraw the United States’ November 25, 2003 finding that the jurisdiction of Burma is of primary money laundering concern.  In addition, US persons and companies are still prohibited from dealing in property of blocked Burmese persons and entities.  Such persons, designated on the SDN List, control substantial portions of the Burmese economy and financial system.  Additional entities will be removed from the SDN list as political reforms continue to move forward in Burma.  US persons doing business in Burma should continue to closely monitor future sanctions developments.