President Obama announced today, after meeting with the newly elected President of Burma, that he intends to lift all remaining sanctions on Burma. With unusual alacrity, at least for the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), that agency issued FAQ #480 stating that its sanctions against Burma would disappear the moment that the President issues an executive order terminating the national emergency with respect to Burma. In other words, the Burmese Sanctions Regulations will immediately become ineffective even if it takes, as it probably will, months for OFAC to get around to pulling them down or issue a rule repealing them.

Of course, and not surprisingly, that FAQ may not be true. The restrictions on the import of jade and rubies from Burma were imposed by the infelicitously named “Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE (Junta’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act of 2008” and cannot be removed until the White House makes certain notifications to Congress.

There is also the question of the status of blocked individuals after the President declares that the national emergency with respect to Burma is over. Section 5(b)(1) automatically blocked the property of certain persons in Burma and section 5(h) requires congressional notification before waiving that sanction. In 2009, the President issued a waiver as to all such persons not listed on the SDN List and that waiver has been congressionally notified.

But is President Obama really intending to remove everyone on the SDN List designated under the Burma sanctions including Steven Law and his companies such as Asia World? Law is on the list for narcotics trafficking, and there seems little reason to rehabilitate him simply because Burma has a democratically elected government. But if Law and his companies remain on the SDN list and the regulations go away, what happens to General License No. 20, which permits goods to be exported to Burma through Asia World ports? Without that license, exports to Burma from the United States will effectively be halted again.

Perhaps we need a few more FAQs.

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