On June 16, the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced that it removed the Burmese Sanctions Regulations (“BSR”) from the Code of Federal Regulations. This removal is the culmination of actions taken by the Obama Administration in October 2016 to terminate the national emergency with respect to Myanmar (EO 13742) and other Myanmar-related Executive Orders, which triggered the lifting of all US economic and financial sanctions against Myanmar.
The Obama administration terminated the national emergency based on findings that Myanmar has made substantial advances in democracy promotion, including November 2015 elections that brought the opposition National League for Democracy to power, the creation of a civilian-led government, the release of political prisoners, and the greater recognition of human rights and fundamental freedoms such as free association and peaceful assembly.
However, as discussed in Steptoe’s earlier advisory, the following Myanmar-related restrictions remain in place:
- Visa Ban: Although all financial sanctions enforced by OFAC have been terminated, the statutory visa ban contained in section 5 the JADE Act (Pub. L. 110-286) remains in place and has not been waived by President Trump. This ban applies to a non-public list of Myanmar military officials and “any other Burmese persons who provide substantial economic and political support” to the military.
- Arms Embargo: Although the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security eased most of its restrictions on exports and reexports to Burma in December 2016 (see Steptoe’s blog post here), the US Department of State’s Directorate of Defense Controls continues to maintain a policy of denial for the export of defense articles and defense services to Myanmar pursuant to section 126.1 of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.
- Financial Institution Due Diligence: Although FinCEN authorized US financial institutions to maintain correspondent accounts for Myanmar banks, US financial institutions still must undertake enhanced due diligence when processing financial transactions involving Myanmar because it remains a “jurisdiction of primary money laundering concern” pursuant to section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act.
- Specially Designated Nationals: While all persons on the SDN List pursuant to the [BURMA] tag were removed in October 2016, persons doing business in Myanmar should continue to screen counterparties because they could be designated under other sanctions regime, such as North Korea and narcotics trafficking.
Moreover, US persons are encouraged to remain vigilant when conducting legal business with and in Myanmar due to remaining concerns about corruption, money laundering, and informal banking practices. Nevertheless, the removal of the BSR represents another step in the improving US-Myanmar relations, recognizing Myanmar’s democratic advancement, and welcoming it back into the community of nations.