May 17, 2016: Significant changes to OFAC Burma program

OFAC says it best:
 
Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended the Burmese Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 537 (“the Regulations”), and updated the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List.  Specifically, OFAC issued regulatory amendments intended to support trade with Burma; facilitate the movement of goods within Burma; allow certain transactions related to U.S. individuals residing in Burma; and allow most transactions involving designated financial institutions.  In addition, OFAC, in consultation with the Department of State, removed seven state-owned enterprises and three state-owned banks from the SDN List.  Taken in concert with the regulatory amendments to allow most transactions with designated financial institutions, this leaves few OFAC restrictions remaining related to banks in Burma.  To incentivize further democratic reforms and maintain pressure on targeted individuals and entities and the military, certain sanctions remain in place.  As such, OFAC identified as blocked and added to the SDN List six companies that are owned 50 percent or more by Steven Law or Asia World Co. Ltd. (“Asia World”), persons who remain on the SDN List.  More broadly, these actions demonstrate the Administration’s support for continued political reforms and broad-based economic growth in Burma, while also maintaining sanctions pressure where needed, and providing the private sector with further clarity to effectively engage in Burma.  
 
“Burma reached a historic milestone over the last year by holding competitive elections and peacefully transitioning to a democratically-elected government.  Our actions today demonstrate our strong support for this political and economic progress while continuing to pressure designated persons in Burma to change their behavior,” said Adam J. Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.  “These steps will help to facilitate trade with non-sanctioned businesses  and, in turn, help the people and Government of Burma achieve a more inclusive and prosperous future.”
Amendments to the Burmese Sanctions Regulations
 
Today, OFAC added a general license authorizing transactions related to U.S. person individuals residing in Burma, extended and expanded an existing general license authorizing trade-related transactions, and updated an existing general license authorizing certain banking services.  As background, an OFAC license is an authorization to engage in a transaction that otherwise would be prohibited.  There are two types of licenses: general licenses and specific licenses.  A general license broadly authorizes a particular type of transaction, subject to certain conditions, without the need to individually apply for a specific license. 
 
General license authorizing personal transactions related to U.S. persons residing in Burma
 
OFAC added a general license that allows U.S. persons to conduct most transactions otherwise prohibited by the Regulations that are ordinarily incident to U.S. person individuals residing in Burma.  This includes paying rent and other living expenses and buying goods and services for personal use.  
 
This complements the existing exemption in the Regulations for travel to or from Burma and will make it easier for U.S. persons to reside and work in Burma, which will increase opportunities for U.S. and Burmese persons to engage with each other.
 
General licenses authorizing trade-related transactions
 
OFAC made two regulatory amendments related to trade-related transactions.  First, OFAC extended indefinitely General License 20.  Initially issued for a six-month period in December 2015, this general license is now incorporated into the Regulations.  It authorizes transactions that are ordinarily incident to exports to or from Burma that are otherwise prohibited involving an individual or company that is designated or otherwise blocked by OFAC’s sanctions.  Second, to further support trade-related transactions, OFAC expanded this authorization by adding a general license permitting certain transactions incident to the movement of goods within Burma. This includes transactions such as transporting goods from a warehouse in Burma for further distribution to retail outlets in Burma. 
 
Together, these amendments will facilitate commerce into and throughout Burma, in turn bolstering trade and commercial opportunities for U.S. and Burmese exporters.  

  

Updating the general license authorizing certain banking services
 
OFAC is also updating an existing general license that authorizes most transactions involving all currently designated financial institutions in Burma.  Two of the financial institutions that were included in this license – Myanma Economic Bank and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank – are being delisted today.  As engagement with them is no longer prohibited, this authorization is no longer needed and these two financial institutions are being removed from the general license.  Concurrently, OFAC is adding to the general license two other Burmese financial institutions that are currently designated – Innwa Bank and Myawaddy Bank – thereby authorizing most transactions involving all Burmese financial institutions once the amendment takes effect on May 18.   
 
This amendment will help encourage trade and increase economic opportunities for the Burmese people.  

Links:

OFAC Notice

Updated Burma Sanctions Regulations

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