Business With Iran – Grinding to a Halt?

Several ASA members have looked into doing business with Iranian air carriers and other Iranian customers.  Some have even applied for export licenses to support such business.  But those efforts appear to be wasted as the US prepares to begin enforcing sanctions against Iran, once again.

Today (May 8, 2018), the President announced his decision to discontinue the United States’ participation in the Agreement with Iran, and to reimpose sanctions against Iran.

The Treasury has published a Frequently Asked Questions document explaining the upcoming process for Iranian sanctions.  The FAQ, consistent with the President’s announcement, requires the Secretaries of State and of the Treasury to take immediate steps to re-impose all United States sanctions lifted or waived in connection with the JCPOA, including those under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, the Iran Sanctions Act of 1996, the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, and the Iran Freedom and Counter-proliferation Act of 2012.  These steps shall be accomplished as expeditiously as possible, and in no case later than 180 days from May 8, 2018.

As part of this process, the U.S. government plans to revoke JCPOA-related authorizations such as the aircraft and aircraft parts-related licenses issued pursuant to the US-Iran Agreement; expect to see these permits terminated as of August 6, 2018,

Applicants whose pending license applications are denied may resubmit their applications for consideration under the safety of flight statement of licensing policy found in 31 C.F.R. § 560.528. That provision permits licenses on a case-by-case basis for exporting to Iran in order to ensure the safety of civil aviation and safe operation of U.S.-origin commercial passenger aircraft.


Iran Sanctions are Still Active!

Iran has reached Implementation Day – but what does this mean? We’ve been receiving a number of inquiries about Iranian sanctions.

The news media has been reporting that US sanctions against Iran have been eliminated. This is not (yet) true.  Conversations with European companies have suggested that Europe is permitting unfettered trade with Iran, and in fact Airbus announced a plan to sell 100 aircraft to Iran as soon as sanctions are formally lifted.  Iranian Transport Minister Abbas Akhoondi announced that Iran would buy 114 aircraft from Airbus.

In the U.S., there are still live sanctions against Iran (like 31 C.F.R. Part 560) that continue to preclude the sale of aircraft parts without a license.  The Treasury Department is the lead US organization for Iran sanctions.  U.S. Treasury Department regulations still prohibit the export, sale, or supply of any services to Iran, unless there is a specific exception in the regulations that permits that export, sale, or supply.  31 C.F.R. §§ 560.204, 560.204(a)(2), 560.410; see, e.g., Guidance Relating to the Lifting of Certain U.S. Sanctions Pursuant to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action On Implementation Day, p. 3, fn 4 and p. 38 (published jointly by U.S. Department Of The Treasury and U.S. Department Of State January 16, 2016) (reminding the reader of the general prohibition on provision of goods and services to Iran except where explicitly permitted).  So, until the restrictive regulations are removed, we should expect the government to issue specific exceptions on an occasional basis.

Treasury has published their initial plan for the abatement of sanctions – the first set of exceptions.  This abatement plan is available for public review but it is not valid until published in the Federal Register!  But the plan is primarily focused on importing food items and carpets from Iran so it is of little use to aircraft parts distributors.

Under the post-Implementation Day plan, we should not expect free trade in aircraft parts to Iran.  Instead, aircraft parts will be subject to a favorable licensing policy, similar to what they’ve enjoyed in recent years.

“[L]icenses may be issued on a case-by-case basis to authorize U.S. persons and, where there is a nexus to U.S. jurisdiction, non-U.S. persons to (1) export, re-export, sell, lease, or transfer to Iran commercial passenger aircraft for exclusively civil aviation end-use, (2) export, re-export, sell, lease, or transfer to Iran spare parts and components for commercial passenger aircraft, and (3) provide associated services, including warranty, maintenance, and repair services and safety-related inspections, for all the foregoing, provided that licensed items and services are used exclusively for commercial passenger aviation.”

This new licensing program is effective immediately under the new licensing policy.  Under the new licensing program, there will be an expectation of controls to prevent re-transfer of goods to parties on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list.  The US has warned that if aircraft, goods, or services licensed for export to Iran are used for purposes other than exclusively for commercial passenger aviation, or have been transferred to SDNs, then the United States could view this as grounds to cease performing its commitments under the agreement with Iran.

Sanctions are not going away, totally.  The fact that there is a favorable licensing policy shows that the US will maintain a presumption against trade that must be overcome with licenses.  And new sanctions are always a possibility: on Sunday, the Treasury Department announced new sanctions against parties involved in Iran’s ballistic missile program (who will be added to the SDN list).

So really, for aircraft parts distributors it remains ‘business as usual.’  Treasury licenses will still be necessary for aircraft parts transactions to Iran that are subject to US jurisdiction.

US Easing Iran and Cuba Sanctions

The United States continues to ease sanctions against Iran and Cuba by small increments.

Sellers of commercial aircraft parts (subject to US jurisdiction) are able to apply for U.S. licenses for exporting commercial aircraft parts to Iran and Cuba. For all commercial aircraft parts transactions to these two jurisdictions,  export licenses are still required from the U.S. government (currently you may not freely ship aircraft parts on a ‘No License required’ basis to either of these jurisdictions).

Licenses for exporting aircraft parts to Iran are issued by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC).  Licenses for exporting aircraft parts to Cuba are issued by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry Security (BIS).

Recently, the United States has started to remove Cuban nationals from the list of Specially Designated nations, which will make it easier to obtain licenses to do business with the Cuban aviation community.

Three More Days: Licenses to Sell Aircraft Parts to Iran are Extended Again

Since November 24, 2013, the United States operated under a Joint Plan Of Action (JPOA) with Iran that has permitted the export of commercial aircraft parts to Iran (when licensed by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control). That authority was set to run out on June 30, 2015, and was extended by a week through July 7.  No agreement has been reached so the authority has been extended for three more days, to July 10, 2015.

The parties to the Iran talks have decided to extend the JPOA for three more days in order to continue negotiations. This means that the existing authority is extended through July 10, 2015.

As always, please look carefully at your license language to ascertain whether it is extended with the JPOA extension. The Announcement from the Treasury Department states that:

Effective July 1, 2015, all specific licenses that:
(1) were issued pursuant to OFAC’s Second Amended Statement of Licensing Policy on Activities Related to the Safety of Iran’s Civil Aviation Industry, and
(2) have an expiration date of July 7, 2015, or earlier are hereby authorized to remain in effect according to their terms through July 10, 2015.

The last license extension was more specific, the or earlier language means that a broader range of licenses may be extended (including some that were not extended for the past week).  This is good news for those have licenses issued under the Second Amended Statement of Licensing Policy.

While this extension is better drafted, the fact that it is only three days long may make it practically impossible for distributors to take advantage of it, unless they have existing relationships that allow them to accept purchase orders, full fill them, and get paid by the end of the week.

One hopes that the next extension, if it happens, would be more commercially reasonable and would permit a longer period for the extension in order to permit U.S. industry to solicit orders and fulfill them.


Exporting under Russia-Ukraine Sanctions

Recently, we have had several questions from members regarding export of aircraft parts to Russia and the Ukraine. As most readers no doubt know, the United States and the EU, in response to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, have imposed various economic sanctions on certain persons and businesses in Russia.  When sanctions like these are imposed, those companies doing business with customers in Russia and Ukraine wisely want to know whether and what type of affect these sanctions may have on their business.

Questions regarding business relations in Russian and Ukraine typically take one of two forms: The first, can I do business with the customer at all?  The second, can I export this particular part to the customer?

To answer these questions, we first need to know what sanctions have been imposed and to whom they apply. We then need to recall our basic export compliance principles and apply those principles to determine whether the part itself can be exported.  Those who have attended ASA workshops in the past may recognize these steps as part of the process of export compliance.

The United States, through the Treasury Department, has issued several rounds of sanctions directed at specific industries and parties.  For the most part, the targeted industries have been companies in the Russian financial and energy sectors, while the individuals mainly officials and individuals with ties to Vladimir Putin.

However, companies in the financial and energy sectors are the only ones that have been targeted.  Importantly, Avia Group and Avia Group Nord, business aviation groups, were also targeted with U.S. sanctions.  This means that although not yet a focal point, the aviation industry can by targeted if the United States deems it necessary, and so is a good reminder that exporters of aircraft parts need to be aware.  The Treasury Department maintains an up to date list of Ukraine-related sanctions on its website.

Although it appears that the Russian aviation sector has not been highly targeted by the United States yet, these sanctions illustrate the importance of knowing your customer. Further, simply because the United States has not sanctioned an organization does not mean they may not be sanctioned by another body.  For instance, the EU recently issued sanctions against Dobrolet, a low-cost Russian carrier.  If you are based in the the EU, you should review the European Union’s restrictive measures in force to ensure you remain compliant with EU sanctions.

As our industry well knows, wealthy entities and individuals, such as those named in sanctions, frequently own or operate their own aircraft.  Given the wealth and high-ranking status of individuals and companies named, it is  important to review the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Asset Control’s Specially Designated Nationals list.  Furthermore, it is important to take this step with every transaction, because new individuals and entities can be added at any time, whether announced as a new round of sanctions or not.

Once we have determined whether sanctions apply to our prospective customer, we can rely on our export compliance program to take us the rest of the way.  The exporter must determine whether the article it plans to export is ITAR or EAR controlled.  Once the appropriate export regime is determined the exporter must determine whether an export license is required for the particular part or whether any license exceptions apply.  If a license is required, the exporter should apply as usual.  Be aware that both the State Department DDTC and the Commerce Department BIS may deny export license applications for high-tech items that could contribute to Russian military capability.  In most cases, however, articles for civil aviation may still be exported.

The highly publicized nature of these sanctions rightfully causes many companies to hesitate before undertaking an export transaction to the listed countries.  This hesitation is appropriate, given the already complex nature of export compliance. But these delays can also help the exporter to ensure that the transaction is undertaken correctly and legally.

The good news is that an effective export compliance system will enable you to easily comply with whatever sanctions and restrictions are enacted.  An effective compliance system should find the exporter following the same steps, reviewing the same lists, and performing the same analyses with every export transaction.  An export compliance program that is second nature to the exporter’s employees will ensure that no matter what sanctions are issued, or against whom, your company will remain compliant. Our law firm has helped many companies establish effective export compliance programs.  If you have questions regarding compliance, please feel free to contact us.

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