The United States enjoys a significant amount of trade and commerce thanks to the relationships it has with various other nations. Without the free flow of trade, it would be incredibly difficult not only for the United States' economy to prosper, but impossible for the world's economy to thrive. However, for everything to work out, trade has to be conducted in a way that is beneficial to the United States and its allies. Not every country has a good relationship with the USA or its allies, and a negative or soured relationship can sometimes result in an embargo The more strained the relationship between the two parties, the more severe the embargo is going to be.
At its most basic, an embargo is a form of ban on trade or commerce with a particular country. It’s meant as a form of diplomatic pressure. A country that has had sanctions imposed on its economy can face difficulty importing and exporting goods, weakening its economy and leading to a lower quality of life for its citizens. The tactic is usually used to discouraged countries with weaker economies from pursuing government change, military projects, or scientific research that the embargoing country deems a threat to national or global security.
An embargo is more easily justifiable than some other avenues of pressure. With economic tactics like this, the government of a country is exercising its right to not do business with another nation. This is not the same thing as a blockade, which would physically bar a country from engaging in trade through the closing of ports by naval forces. Not only is a blockade is a much more aggressive action, it is also an act of war. The currently embargoed countries are not facing anything this severe, although the consequences of the embargoes are still significant.
A sanction or an embargo instituted by the United States and its allies is not made without careful consideration, given the wide-ranging consequences of the process. The following is a brief look at the most serious of embargo acts by the United States against other nations. A number of these embargos -which cover a variety of different products and types of investments- have been in place for many decades, showing how relations have largely stagnated when embargoes have been in place.
7 Libya – 2011: Embargo Against Gaddafi Loyalists
Economic sanctions against Libya have been in place since 2011, a revision of past embargoes against the country. Of the many currently embargoed countries, Libya's situation is unique. Initially, sanctions were imposed on the country because of the tumultuous relationship between the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, and the United States. Gaddafi had orchestrated multiple terrorist acts against the United States, which made it all the more shocking that relations between the US and Libya normalized in the 2000's. In the aftermath of the Libyan Civil War (2011 to 2012), sanctions were again put in place - but not against the country. Rather, the sanctions are solely against those who remain loyal to the previous Gaddafi regime.
6 Sudan – 2002: Crown Corporation Deals, Business With Militants
Sanctions and embargoes against Sudan are largely based on the nation's brutal persecution and human rights violations of those living in the Darfur region. The sanctions were initially put in place in 2002. These sanctions are targeted, since Sudan has been willing to help the United States fight terrorism. The specifics of the sanction center on blocking the assets of any citizens of Sudan who have been involved with violence in Darfur. There are also sanctions in place against companies controlled or owned (whole or in part) by the Sudanese government.
5 Myanmar (Burma) – 1997: Arms And Weapons Sales
The United States had quite a number of trade embargoes against Myanmar (formerly Burma) in the past, although they are routinely lifted. Embargoes and sanctions were first placed on Burma in 1997. Many of the sanctions against Myanmar center on human rights violations. Among the most consistent embargoes on the country are the banning of arms and weapons sales.
4 Syria – 1986: Oil Exports, Investment, And Government Trade
Next on the list of currently embargoed countries is Syria. The economic sanctions against Syria started in 1986, the most recent having been put in place by executive order on August 18, 2011. Under this order, the assets of the Syrian government are frozen, and no one may enter into any transaction of any kind with the government of Syria. (Prior executive orders do allow for food and medicine to be sent to Syria to aid those in need) Petroleum and petroleum-related products may not be imported into the United States from Syria. No US citizen may invest in Syria or operate a business there. Many sanctions remain in place in regards to doing business with the Commercial Bank of Syria. Any goods that contain more than 10% of American manufactured parts may not be exported to Syria.
3 Iran – 1979: Oil Exports, Business With Iranian National Guard
Sanctions against Iran have been in place since 1979, starting in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, which involved the taking of American hostages. Sanctions are also in place to help pressure Iran into stopping its uranium enrichment program. The sanctions are quite far-reaching, and deal with targeting investments related to oil and gas and the export of any refined petroleum. No business dealings of any kind are allowed with the Iranian Republican Guard. No one may deal with the Central Bank of Iran or any other financial or insurance company. Even businesses related to web hosting and domain registration have sanctions against them. Currently, steps are being taken to reduce sanctions and embargoes as a part of a new diplomacy effort on the part of the United States government.
2 Cuba 1962: Investment, Imports/Exports
Sanctions against Cuba have been in place since 1962, a reaction by the American government to the nationalization of American property and business assets by Cuba two years after the Cuban Revolution. Sanctions and embargoes were further emplaced in the 1990's. In 1993, the Cuban Democracy Act helped ensured that sanctions would be in place against Cuba due to its human rights violations and lack of democracy. The Helms–Burton Act of 1996 further barred American citizens from doing business with Cuba. Recent figures note that the Cuban economy loses $685 million per year based on the sanctions, which has led to criticism in the international community at what some countries see as a senseless and hurtful ban on trade.
1 North Korea – 1950: Arms And Weapons, Luxury
Of all the countries currently under embargo by America, the sanctions against North Korea have been in place the longest. Sanctions were first put in place in 1950, the first year of the Korean War. North Korea is deemed a state sponsor of terrorism, a nation known for human rights abuses, and continues its efforts to develop a nuclear weapons program. Not all goods are barred from being exported to North Korea, although there are quite a number that have been explicitly banned. The most recent executive action was signed on September 1, 2010, and is very explicit in banning any activity or good even remotely related to arms or weapons. Luxury goods are banned, as is financial, material, or technological support related to any material banned.