What are Embargoes & Sanctions

What is an embargo?

An embargo is the complete ban or prohibition of trade by one country with other. Under embargoes, no goods or services can be imported or exported from or to the embargoed nation. For example, the U.S. currently has a trade embargo with Cuba (except in limited circumstances, such as the export of food and agricultural products to Cuba).

What is a sanction?

Sanctions are the trade prohibition on certain type of products, services or technology to another country due to various reasons, including nuclear non-proliferation and humanitarian purposes. Sanctions could also be considered as “partial embargoes” as they restrict trade in certain areas. For example, the U.S. has trade sanctions with North Korea that prohibit the export of any material that would help N.Korea in its Nuclear or any other mass destruction or weapons related program.

In practical terms, comprehensive trade sanctions can have practically the same effect as an embargo. Fr example, Cuba is the only country currently subject to a total trade embargo by the U.S. However, the U.S. also maintains comprehensive trade sanctions against N. Korea, Syria, Sudan and Iran that prohibit virtually all types of financial transactions with entities from those countries, thereby having a similar practical effect as the embargo against Cuba. Sanctions also can be more limited and target only certain groups of individuals, such as the sanctions maintained by the U.S. against former members of the Charles Taylor regime in Liberia.

Who enforces embargoes?

Embargoes are enforced by The Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals, OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions against targeted foreign countries, terrorism sponsoring organizations and international narcotics traffickers. Granted authority by national emergency powers, specific legislation, and the President, OFAC imposes controls on foreign transactions and immobilizes foreign assets that are contained in U.S. jurisdiction. International mandates including the United Nations generally apply the sanctions, which are multilateral in scope, and are monitored with close cooperation from allied governments.

Who is currently sanctioned?

For a current listing of sanctioned countries, visit the Office of Foreign Assets Control website.

For more information on embargoes, please visit these web sites:

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development: Contains current progress reports on non-cooperating countries and territories.

Bureau of Industry and Security: The BIS web page will provide information on the regulation of exports for national security, foreign policy, and nonproliferation reasons and the enforcement of those regulations. (Some links may require Adobe Acrobat Reader.)

US Department of State: This link provides current travel warnings, public announcements and consular information sheets for every country of the world.