US President’s UN Address – Key US Sanctions Policy Cues

The US President’s Annual Address to the UN Assembly, which takes place in September, should be followed closely by those looking at the wider Sanctions, strategic, domestic and foreign policy goals of the US Government.

One key feature of the Trump speech on 24 September 2019 was his call for “patriots” over “globalists” – or individual sovereignty and independence over globalisation. This is a very clear indication that US extra-territorial Sanctions and AML measures remain a real threat. This should be noted by non-US global players who need to include an OFAC program as part of their counter-measures to protect their global presence.

The order with which jurisdictions are mentioned is significant. US trade partnerships included, in order, NAFTA (Canada and Mexico), Japan, UK over post-Brexit trade agreement.

From a Trade and Sanctions perspective, China was heavily criticised and noted as a “currency manipulator” and problematic trade actor with a dubious moniker of “developing country” and poor trade record as member of the WTO, and US tariff penalties on China and Hong Kong issues highlighted.

From a Sanctions perspective Iran was the first jurisdiction to be highlighted, in lengthy terms, as a “state sponsor of terror”, US withdrawal from the “terrible” Iran Nuclear Deal was underlined and the US economic sanctions which followed, including US sanctioning of Iran’s SWF and Central Bank after the attacks on Saudi Arabia.

“The United States has never believed in permanent enemies…” – President Trump’s statement indicated that the outcome of Sanctions policy is not permanent and solutions can be found, which should be noted. North Korea’s commitments to improving relations and de-nuclearise were noted in this context.

Afghanistan was noted in terms of the mass migration and continued activities of the US-designated Taliban. Human trafficking was noted as an issue, with Mexico, Canada, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Panama working alongside the US to curb illegal immigration.

Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela was cited as jurisdictions whose people were “under brutal oppression”, citing a UN human rights report on Venezuela’s poor record. Cuba plundering Venezuela’s oil wealth was mentioned along with Venezuela’s un-democratic government.

Those in attendance at the September 2019 UN speech are key actors in the US Sanctions program: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, as well as US Vice President Mike Pence.