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Specific licenses to sell food items to Iran without basis in US law, regulation

THERE is no provision in United States (US) law or regulation requiring non-US persons to apply specific licenses to be able to sell most food items, including bananas, to Iran.

Commercial Counselor Maria Roseni Alvero of the Philippine Embassy in the US made the clarification after the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala informing him that shipping agencies would suspend the acceptance of cargoes bound for Iran.

This initiative is “in line with their commitment to comply with foreign trade regulations, including sanctions imposed on Iran.”

However, American President Line (APL) will continue to ship bananas to Iran provided that the shipper and consignee have the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) license from the US Department of Treasury Office.

“Based on this Post’s research, this requirement is without basis in US law or regulation pertaining to sanctions against Iran,” Alvero said a letter to Philippine trade officials.

She said there is in fact explicit recognition given by OFAC and US State Department that non-US persons have, like US persons, the broad license to export or re-export most food items, including bananas, to Iran.

US persons are those subject to US jurisdiction including US citizens, permanent resident aliens, US companies including their foreign branches, and any person living in the US.

PBGEA banana exporters are non-US persons.

“The general license does not cover the sale of some identified food items. Banana is not identified among these food items. Nor does the general license cover the sale of food to military or law enforcement purchasers or importers,” Alvero further said.

To avoid inadvertently violating sanctions, she advised non-US persons to keep within the scope and the limitations of the general license granted to US persons regarding exporting and re-exporting most food items to Iran.

Since 1995 when the US first imposed a comprehensive trade ban against Iran, the prohibition was made applicable only to US persons.

But while specific trade prohibitions have been also imposed on non-US persons since 2010, a US State Department factsheet indicates that the ban has been directed at specific sectors and at specific Iranian beneficiaries of the trade.

“Food has not been targeted as a sector, and that is why the non-US person continues to this day to have no explicit provision in the regulations, like that for the US person, that is broadly authorized to export and re-export most food items to Iran,” Alvero added. — Danielle Venz, PHILEXPORT News and Features

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