January 24, 2017 - Export Controls & Sanctions

Amid Wave of Final Executive Actions, President Obama Eases Sanctions Against Sudan

Export Controls & SanctionsOn January 13, 2017, the White House issued an executive order revoking significant aspects of the sanctions in place against Sudan (that have been in effect since 1997).  In conjunction with the announcement, the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a corresponding amendment to the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (SSR), 31 C.F.R. part 538.  The amendment became effective January 17, 2017, upon publication in the Federal Register of OFAC’s general license authorizing all transactions prohibited by Executive Orders (E.O.) 13067 and 13412.  See 82 Fed. Reg. 4793 (Jan. 17, 2017).  These transactions include the importation of goods and services from Sudan; the exportation of goods, technology, and services to Sudan; and transactions involving property in which the Government of Sudan has an interest and authorizes the processing of transactions involving persons in Sudan.  It is important to note that exports of U.S. origin items may still require a license from the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”).  On January 17, 2017, BIS also published a final rule changing its policy towards license applications for exports to Sudan from a policy of denial to a policy of approval.  See 82 Fed. Reg. 4781 (Jan. 17, 2017).   Although the authorizations for these transactions is effective as of January 17, 2017, Executive Orders 13067 and 13412 will not be formally revoked until July 12, 2017, if the Government of Sudan sustains positive actions it has taken over the last six months and there is no change in U.S. policy.

The Obama Administration took this action in response to and in recognition of the positive developments resulting from the ongoing U.S.-Sudan bilateral engagement over the last six months.  Although these actions represent a significant change in the diplomatic relationship between the United States and Sudan, there are economic and political sanctions still in place against Sudan, as is the United States’ formal branding of Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism.  For example, the regulatory changes will not affect the Sudanese individuals or entities blocked pursuant to any Executive Order or OFAC regulation other than E.O. 13067 and 13412, or OFAC’s general license under the SSR.  It will also not affect U.S. persons’ obligations to comply with the licensing requirements administrated by the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security or the State Department Directorate of Defense Trade Controls.

Finally, it is not clear how the new Trump Administration will react to this change in diplomacy, if at all.  Neither President Trump nor members of the transition team have publicly expressed a position on Sudan, much less a position on the Sudanese sanctions regime.  Thus, U.S. companies and persons taking advantage of the lifting of the Sudan embargo should closely monitor policy changes that may result in the re-imposition of Sudan sanctions in part or in whole.