On October 7, 2016, President Obama issued an Executive Order formally lifting all remaining U.S. economic sanctions in place against Burma (Myanmar). This follows President Obama’s press conference with Burma’s leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, where he announced his intent to remove U.S. sanctions against Burma, on which we previously reported. The Executive Order terminated the national emergency with respect to Burma, waived the financial and blocking sanctions in the JADE Act, and ended restrictions on immigration of certain Burmese persons. The Executive Order took effect immediately on October 7, and will increase commercial opportunities for U.S. companies in Burma.

As a result of this Executive Order, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has undertaken the following actions:

  • Individuals and entities blocked pursuant to the Burma sanctions program have been removed from the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List. 
  • All property and interests in property blocked pursuant to the Burma sanctions program are unblocked.  
  • The ban on the importation of Burmese-origin jadeite and rubies (and jewelry containing Burmese-origin jadeite and rubies) is no longer in effect.
  • Restrictions on banking or financial transactions with Burma are no longer in effect.
  • Compliance with the US Department of State’s Responsible Investment Reporting Requirements is no longer mandatory.
  • The Burmese Sanctions Regulations are no longer in effect.

Additionally, the determination by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) that Burma is a “jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern” under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act remains in effect. However, FinCEN issued an administrative exception on October 7, 2016 to permit US financial institutions to maintain correspondent accounts for Burmese banks under certain conditions.

Companies may wish to update their compliance policies to take advantage of the termination of US sanctions regarding Burma. However, we advise caution when doing so, as business in and with Burma remains subject to residual legal restrictions. OFAC has issued guidance noting that Burmese individuals and entities may remain blocked pursuant to other OFAC sanctions authorities, such as the counternarcotics sanctions. Companies wishing to do business with Burma should ensure that they undertake proper screening of all contractual counterparties against the SDN List and other restricted party lists, and conduct risk-based due diligence to guard against the facilitation of money laundering. Other US trade restrictions related to Burma remain in place, including export controls and an arms embargo.

It also should be borne in mind that residual EU sanctions and export controls imposed against Burma still apply. On April 22, 2016, the European Council extended the existing regime, which covers an arms embargo, a ban to export equipment for internal repression and a ban to provide certain services. Those sanctions now continue to apply until April 30, 2017.