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As you may well have seen from the extensive media coverage this weekend, following certification by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the Government of Iran had met its obligations under the P5+1 Nuclear Agreement, the United States and European Union have now relaxed substantial portions of their sanctions regimes against Iran. The central components of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) are the roll-back of sanctions against the Iranian petroleum, petrochemical, oil and natural gas sectors, restoration of financial ties to certain Iranian banks (including the Central Bank of Iran), and the elimination of the vast majority of US extra-territorial sanctions imposed after 2012.
As regards the EU and UK, most of the nuclear sanctions targeting Iran's energy, mining, financial and shipping sectors have been removed. Technical assistance, financial assistance, brokerage services and insurance related to these sectors is also now permitted. However, some sanctions remain, particularly in the military sector and telecommunications sector.
As a consequence of the actions taken by the US Government on Saturday, the most crippling aspects of Iranian sanctions - those that imposed limitations on foreign companies who sought to conduct business in Iran - have been virtually rescinded in their entirety. In addition, under guidance and licenses issued yesterday by the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), foreign affiliates and subsidiaries of US companies may also engage in commercial activities involving Iran, provided that adequate controls are in place.
For those who only need a short summary of the key impacts of sanctions relief, we have prepared a bullet point summary below. For those wanting more detail, we have prepared further information on EU and US sanctions relaxations below that.
As you know, Dentons maintains a broad and comprehensive team in the US, EU, and globally to advise on developments in this space. Our team is currently developing regional analyses around the impact of the JCPOA in international markets, given the varying impacts of the JCPOA in markets stretching from the US to Europe, the Middle East and Asia - as well as the specific impacts for companies that are involved in the energy, financial services, insurance and manufacturing sectors where the impacts may well be the most significant.
Consistent with Council Regulation 1861 of 2015 issued in October last year, most of the nuclear sanctions targeting Iran's energy, mining, financial and shipping sectors have been removed. This means it is now permitted for EU persons and their overseas subsidiaries to:
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) are both actively supporting and recommending expanded trade relations with Iran. To this end, UK Export Finance will be recommencing overseas investment insurance coverage for Iranian investments and will be publishing coverage levels and terms shortly. The UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said yesterday that, "I hope British businesses seize the opportunities available to them through the phased lifting of sanctions on Iran. The future is as important as the landmark we’ve reached today".
It is important that EU persons are aware of who they do business with in Iran (by undertaking counter-party due diligence) and that UK persons appropriately identify and manage UK Bribery Act compliance. While the UK government is recommending that its citizens and companies explore investment activities with Iran, this is not without risk. It is not easy to do business in Iran, with bureaucratic delays and a lack of investment infrastructure (though there are signs this is changing), and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard remains in control of large portions of the economy, particularly the energy sector. In addition, there remain limitations on the scope of the EU relief, specifically:
Consistent with the JCPOA, the US has implemented sanctions relief across key sectors of the Iranian economy. This includes:
It is critical to note, that notwithstanding the expansive nature of this sanctions relief, but for three categories of activities (aviation, import of Iranian origin products, and foreign entities owned or controlled by US persons) none of the relief is intended to apply to US persons, and US persons, including US companies, continue to be broadly prohibited from engaging in transactions or dealings with Iran and the Government of Iran unless such activities are exempt from regulation or authorized by OFAC.
Within the context of the sanctions relief now implemented under the JCPOA, there are several areas where the guidance requires careful attention for both US and non-US persons seeking to engage in commerce with Iran. These relate primarily to the following areas of focus:
In this environment, a multi-region approach will be critical to ensuring compliance and help to maximize commercial opportunities in this emerging market. Dentons will be developing a more comprehensive series of FAQs and guidance to support clients in this complex arena, and of course will be happy to answer specific questions about implementation, compliance, or structuring in this new landscape.
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