On September 14, 2016, President Obama announced his intention to terminate U.S. sanctions targeting Myanmar, also known as Burma (“Myanmar”), completing the process of relaxing U.S. sanctions against Myanmar that began in July 2012. In a joint statement issued by the United States and Myanmar, President Barack Obama and State Chancellor Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi announced the U.S.-Myanmar Partnership, which will ultimately allow for deepened economic ties across a range of sectors between the countries. As an initial step for implementing the partnership, the President announced that the United States will terminate U.S. sanctions and will revoke the Executive Order-based framework of the Myanmar sanctions program.
In connection with this announcement, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) published FAQ 480 in its Frequently Asked Questions, stating that when the Executive Order eliminating the Myanmar sanctions program is ultimately issued, the sanctions imposed under the Burmese Sanctions Regulations (“BSR”) will no longer be in effect and will be removed from the Code of Federal Regulations. As a result, it is expected that most Specially Designated Nationals (“SDNs”) identified on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (“SDN List”) for reasons related solely to Myanmar (i.e., those SDNs associated with only the [BURMA] tag) will no longer be listed or designated as SDNs. When asked when U.S. sanctions would be lifted, the President advised that they would be lifted “soon.” Until the new Executive Order is issued, the BSR and U.S. sanctions targeting Myanmar remain in effect.
Though the elimination of the BSR will likely mean more Myanmar-related business opportunities in the future, we note that companies should use caution when proceeding in Myanmar-related transactions in the near term. Even if certain Myanmar SDNs are no longer listed as SDNs under the BSR, companies may want to consider how they should proceed with formerly designated Myanmar parties, especially given the possibility that OFAC could potentially re-designate such parties under a different U.S. sanctions program. In addition, because there are many SDNs operating in Myanmar that are designated under different sanctions programs (including the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations), U.S. companies should use caution in proceeding in Myanmar-related transactions and screen any potential parties to a transaction.
Also on September 14, 2016, the President signed an Executive Order entitled “Termination of Emergency with Respect to the Situation in or Relation to Côte d’Ivoire,” which resulted in OFAC eliminating U.S. sanctions targeting Côte d’Ivoire and also eliminating nine SDNs previously designated on the SDN List. This action by OFAC follows the termination of the U.S. arms embargo targeting Côte d’Ivoire, as described in our previous blog post here.