Tuning up for business abroad – US trade embargoes – Brief Article
Laura M. Litvan
My company repairs aircraft engines for commercial airlines and private aircraft owners. So far, we have served only domestic clients, and I want to begin seeking customers in other countries. But I understand the government has a list of countries with which it is illegal to do any business. Which nations are affected by such policies, and how can I learn more?
Since World War I, the U.S. government has used trade embargoes to achieve national-security and foreign-policy objectives. Currently, six nations are subject to strict, broad-based economic sanctions from the United States. They are Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and parts of the former Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro).
Both Congress and the president have the power to impose an embargo, but in recent years such restrictions have been established primarily through presidential executive orders.
U.S. policy on sanctions toward a country can change frequently in a relatively short time if relations between the two nations are tense. For example, the United States imposed a trade embargo against Iran after the U.S. embassy in Tehran was seized and diplomats were taken hostage in 1979. But the embargo’s provisions were later scaled back through executive order, then tightened twice recently by President Clinton.
Clinton signed an order March 15 prohibiting U.S. involvement in any petroleum development in Iran, citing Iranian interference in the Middle East peace process. A May 7 order still in effect is more far-reaching. It prohibits all trade in goods, technology, and services with Iran. In expanding the sanctions, the president cited Iran’s support of international terrorism and its efforts to obtain materials used to make nuclear weapons.
Currently, the provisions of the six trade embargoes that affect U.S. exporters prohibit the sale of goods or services, either directly or through third countries. But the detailed regulations governing the sanctions differ from country to country.
For example, a U.S. company can export informational materials like books and films to many of the nations, and medical supplies are allowed in some instances. Also, the Treasury Department can license specific items for trade on a case-by-case basis.
For more information, contact the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control at (202) 622-2440. Also, if you have a modem, you can tap into a computer bulletin board called FedWorld by dialing (703) 321-3339. Once you are in the system, select option “C” for business, trade, and labor information, and “E” for Treasury Department information.
FedWorld is also accessible via the Internet. The address is http://www.fedworld.gov.
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