Economic sanctions work best when the carrots and sticks of trade and commerce cause a change in behavior in the sanctions targets. On the one hand, Cuban sanctions are clearly ineffective, while one could make compelling arguments that both the Iranian and Burmese sanctions programs achieved (or are en route to achieving) their goals.
The President of the United States issued an Executive Order sanctioning the Central African Republic earlier this week. Mr. Watchlist is scratching his head over this one. Why? Because we have no leverage over their economy – sanctions are, at best, a way for the US to say we disapprove of the carnage. And the US financial system will likely pay more of a price than any funds we might possibly interdict.
As evidence, here's the page from the US Trade Representative for the CAR:
Central African Republic
AGOA Status: Central African Republic is not eligible for AGOA this year.
Trade Agreements: The U.S. and Central African Republic have no trade or investment agreements.
U.S.-Central African Republic Trade Facts
Central African Republic is currently our 204th largest goods trading partner with $13 million in total (exports plus imports) goods trade during 2012. Goods exports totaled $9 million; Goods imports totaled $4 million. The U.S. goods trade surplus with Central African Republic was $4 million in 2012.
Central African Republic was the United States' 203rd largest goods export market in 2012.
U.S. goods exports to Central African Republic in 2012 were $8 million, down 31% from 2011.
The top export categories (2-digit HS) for 2012 were: Machinery ($2 million), Pharmaceutical Products ($1 million), Special Other (low value shipments) ($1 million), thousand), Electrical Machinery ($792 thousand), and Furniture and Bedding ($693 thousand).
Central African Republic was the United States' 183rd largest supplier of goods imports in 2012.
U.S. goods imports from Central African Republic totaled $4 million in 2012, a 32.1% decrease from 2011.
The top import categories (2-digit HS) for 2011 were: Precious Stones and Metals (diamonds) ($2 million), Wood ($1 million), Fats and Oils (bees wax) ($709 thousand), Spices, Coffee, and Tea (coffee) ($373 thousand), and Machinery ($245 thousand).
The U.S. goods trade surplus with Central African Republic was $4 million in 2012, 29.7% less than in 2011.
And, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity (yay, MIT!), US exports to the CAR represent 1.58% of the CAR's imports, and imports from the CAR are 1.72% of its exports.
Mr. Watchlist rests his case.