The recently published text of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) includes a peculiar provision that confers on each of the parties the right to terminate the USMCA if any of the other parties enters into a "free trade agreement" (FTA) with a country determined by any of the USMCA countries to be a "non-market" economy. Insofar as the USMCA requires the parties to choose between maintaining the trilateral trade agreement or entering into an FTA with a non-market economy country, the USMCA imports the premise that underlies U.S. secondary sanctions.
On September 7, 2018, Congresswoman Mia Love (R-UT) introduced in the House of Representatives H.R. 6751, the Banking Transparency for Sanctioned Persons Act of 2018 to "increase transparency with respect to financial services benefitting state sponsors of terrorism, human rights abusers, and corrupt officials.” This update discusses the Banking Transparency Act's provisions and what it conveys about the current U.S. legal climate around corruption and human rights sanctions, Congress’ increasingly activist sanctions posture, and the risk management and compliance inferences that U.S. and foreign financial institutions should draw from the Banking Transparency Bill when viewed in context.
Some Congress members are lobbying the Administration to impose human rights sanctions on Chinese officials and companies responsible for or complicit in abuses against China’s Uighur Muslim minority and other minorities. Two companies named, Dahua Technology and Hikvision, are very large, China-based global firms that produce surveillance products and systems. The bottom line is that the tech industry should take note of the development (even if no sanctions are imposed), as it foreshadows the legal and reputation risk issues they will, without doubt, face in connection with tech-enabled abuses, privacy encroachments, and other conduct by consumers of tech products and services.
Against the Trump Administration's ideological backdrop, a range of conventional and unconventional trade, economic and other measures have been and likely will continue to be taken on "national security" grounds, including domestically. These include measures to increase domestic production of "critical minerals" (among them rare earth elements)--essential to the production of consumer electronics, electric vehicles, defense articles, medical devices, and other manufactured articles. Such actions can be seen on the horizon, if one connects the dots between national security authorities under trade laws, the Administration’s stated goals and actions favoring increased domestic mining of critical minerals, and environmental laws that contain national security/national defense exceptions and are viewed by the Administration and extractives industry interests as prohibitive to domestic production of critical minerals and commercially viable terms.
The Global Magnitsky Sanctions apply worldwide, without any requirement of a jurisdictional nexus with the United States. They define corruption broadly enough to capture a wide range of conduct and persons. The sanctions target “serious human rights abuse,” but do not define the term. Moreover, the sanctions are readily deployable. No tailored legislation, executive order, or other administrative process—other than a sanctions determination by the Secretary of Treasury in consultation with the Secretary of State—is required to impose sanctions anywhere, anytime. Given their global reach, substantive breadth, and wide applicability, the Global Magnitsky Sanctions have distinct utility value as they can be readily employed for multiple legal, policy and strategic objectives. They are the Swiss Army Knife of sanctions. To date, 78 individuals and entities have been sanctioned for corruption and human rights abuses. The most recent of these sanctions actions, against Turkey, has triggered speculation as to its motives and objectives. This is discussed below, as are some of the provisions that suggest the Global Magnitsky Sanctions were formulated for sweeping applicability and enforcement latitude.
Today the United States took the extraordinary step of imposing sanctions on Turkey's Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul and Minister of Interior Suleyman Soylu. The sanctions were imposed under the Global Magnitsky Sanctions program, promulgated by Executive Order 13818 pursuant to the Global Magnitsky Act of 2016 and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, among other legal authorities.
The introduction of legislation after the Helsinki summit to constrain the President's sanctions authority vis-a-vis Russia is not surprising. As anticipated in this MassPoint post of July 18, "the Helsinki meeting could have legal consequences, should Congress move to insert itself, beyond its standard law-making and oversight role, in sanctions and trade matters," including in the mold of CAATSA.
MassPoint takes a strategic and contextual approach to critical resources law, policy and risk. The Firm works with critical resources suppliers, consumers and investors to manage legal and policy complexity in supply chains and transactions.
At this point, one or few reported new incidents of cobalt (or other critical minerals) thefts/security risks are insufficient to make any reasonable predictions as to what action would be reasonable. However, news of such incidents should be closely monitored by suppliers/exporters, buyers/importers, finance intermediaries, and logistics services providers. Related storage, transit and insurance practices and terms should be noted for review if and when circumstances appear to warrant such action.
Thinking beyond the parameters of standard "international development" and industry playbooks, the lack of progress (or, in some cases, regression) in developing Afghanistan's mining sector should induce interested government, industry and nongovernmental actors to consider if and how laws, policies and technical assistance can be formulated, modified and implemented in ways that might enhance their effectiveness in practice, rather than just on paper. Afghanistan, as is well known, is a Muslim majority nation in which Islamic law (as locally interpreted and implemented formally and informally) plays a significant role. Islamic law (Shari'ah), provides rules and precedents applicable not only to family matters and ritual worship, but also to business transactions, public governance, market regulation, and limitations on government dominion over private property. in these areas, and others, Islamic law and historical practices provide rules and precedents applicable to the regulation, administration and conduct of mining and other extractives businesses. These laws and precedents are just as robust, and more so in some cases, as international and foreign laws and standards.