Trade embargoes are government-imposed barriers to international trade. Countries often justify these restrictions using political reasons, such as violations of national security or human rights.
10 Examples of Trade Embargoes
- U.S. Sanctions on Nicaragua: On July 5, 2018, the U.S. imposed sanctions on three Nicaraguan government officials, in response to the Nicaraguan government’s treatment of anti-government protesters, which has led to over 200 people being killed during violent demonstrations. Due to the 2012 Global Magnitsky Act, the U.S. can implement sanctions against those who commit human rights violations and corruption. The LA Times reported that under the sanctions, “any assets the three men have in the United States will be frozen, and U.S. citizens are barred from business transactions with them or any companies in which they have 50 percent or more ownership.”
- U.S. Sanctions on Russia: In April 2018, the U.S. passed new sanctions against Russia, intending to penalize Russian officials for their alleged involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and their presence in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria. According to CNN, assets will be frozen for 17 senior Russian officials.
- European Union (EU) Sanctions on Russia: As of July 5, 2018, the EU unanimously agreed to extend sanctions against Russia for at least another six months. According to PBS, the sanctions’ extension was no surprise and were “imposed after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and backed pro-Russia separatists fighting the government in eastern Ukraine.”
- Canada Sanctions on Venezuela: In September 2017, Canada enforced an asset freeze and dealings ban on Venezuela. Under the Special Economic Measures Act, Canada prohibits citizens and any Canadian residents from providing “any goods, wherever situated, to a listed [Veneuelan] or to a person acting on behalf of a listed [Veneuelan].” The sanctions are based upon a U.S.-Canada alliance in response to human rights violations in Venezuela. For example, the Venezuelan government arrested thousands of protestors in April 2017, and many civilians were injured or killed during the protests.
- U.N. Sanctions on North Korea: In 2006, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) imposed sanctions in response to North Korea’s first nuclear test. The sanction prohibited the supply of heavy weapons and select luxury goods. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the UNSC announced more restrictions—extending to oil and metal imports, agricultural exports, and labor exports in December 2017. However, the U.N. does allow humanitarian aid to enter North Korea.
- U.S. Sanctions on China: Most recently, the U.S. and China are in trade wars—each responding with their own tariffs. On April 16, 2018, the U.S. imposed a seven-year ban on exports to ZTE, a Chinese telecom company. The Washington Post explained that ZTE was reprimanded for “illegally exporting U.S. goods to North Korea and Iran.” On June 7, the U.S. ended the ban.
- U.S. Embargo on Cuba: In 1962, the U.S. placed a full embargo against Cuba when the Kennedy administration announced the ceasing of all trade. However, in March 2016, President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to “allow commercial flights between the two countries for the first time in more than fifty years.” In September 2017, President Trump proposed the withdrawal of two-thirds of his embassy staff from Havana, Cuba and announced the return of travel restrictions.
- EU Sanctions on Sudan: The EU imposed an arms embargo on Sudan in 1994. The embargo was amended in 2011 due to the independence of South Sudan and now applies to both Sudan and South Sudan.
- U.N. Sanctions on Iran: In 2006, the U.N. authorized an embargo on supplies for uranium production and ballistic missile development, harming Iran’s economy. In April 2015, the U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew noted that “Iran’s economy was 15 to 20 percent smaller than it would have been had sanctions not been ratcheted up in 2012.”
- U.S. Embargo on Japan: In 1941, the same year the U.S. entered World War II, the U.S. imposed a comprehensive trade embargo against Japan. The U.S. froze “all Japanese assets in America,” which eventually contributed to Japan’s loss of “access to three-fourths of its overseas trade and 88 percent of its imported oil.”
These 10 examples of trade embargoes demonstrate how countries engage with one another to serve their domestic interests and to punish others for violations of human rights.
– Christine Leung