2021 Outlook on US Sanctions

2021 Outlook On Us Sanctions

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In recent years, the US has tightened its sanctions policies related to a number of countries, including China, Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. The primary objective behind this uncompromising approach has been to make sure that multinational firms are fully compliant with all regulations and that they do not indulge in suspicious transactions. Further, within this sanction policy, certain sectors have been prioritized above the others. For instance, areas such as finance, energy, technology, manufacturing, and shipping have been earmarked by the US government as potentially vulnerable sectors.


Due to the change of administration in Washington D.C., there is a possibility that these sanctions policies will be revised in the near future. This blog focuses on the US sanctions outlook for 2021 and discusses the possible outcomes in terms of the new strategic and tactical approaches that could be adopted by the Biden administration, while also analyzing policy aspects that are likely to remain unchanged.


The Current State of Affairs


The Biden administration could implement its own strategies in order to ensure that their foreign policy priorities are met. The current sanctions policy designed by OFAC focuses on four major areas related to global trade:

  • country sanctions
  • targeted sanctions
  •  sectoral sanctions
  •  extraterritorial sanctions

Each of these sanctions aims to ensure that US foreign policy goals are met at all times. Further, these sanctions are also used to make sure that multinational corporations do not form international nexuses to circumvent US regulations.


The previous Trump administration announced certain major sanctions right before the end of his term. For example, new sanctions related to Yemen and Syria were announced during the final few months of the previous regime. These new sanctions aimed to eliminate activities such as terrorist financing and money laundering. Similarly, the Trump administration had also ramped up the pressure on China by announcing significant sanctions on companies that were engaging in transactions with the Chinese government. This situation is likely to change under the new regime.


The Outlook for 2021


The Biden administration has already started to implement its own strategies when it comes to international trade. There has been a noticeable push towards international cooperation. The new political leadership of the US will certainly look to leave its mark when it comes to international trade relations. However, this does not mean that all existing sanctions and related policies will be completely discarded. In fact, most of the existing sanctions are likely to remain in place. This is because the trade partners of the US are not likely to change to a great extent. 


The change is likely to happen in the form of human rights-related sanctions. The new administration has already placed great emphasis on ending human rights abuses around the world, and this could mean that countries that are involved in such activities are likely to face economic sanctions. In addition, 2021 is likely to witness an increase in international trade cooperation between the US and other nations. This is because the new administration wants to step up multilateral trade efforts in order to boost the US economy. 


Similarly, the new administration is also likely to reduce the efficacy of the “maximum pressure” policy adopted by the previous regime in the US. For instance, the large-scale sanctions related to imports from China are likely to be scaled back. Similarly, the stance on Syria and Yemen could also be altered during 2021. Overall, the new administration is likely to adopt a much more pragmatic approach when it comes to international trade. It will be interesting to note whether these new measures are able to help the US in achieving its short-term trade goals.




In conclusion, it is evident that the US sanctions regime is likely to witness some changes during 2021. If you need external assistance related to your trade compliance program, OCR’s global trade management software makes sure that your business is fully compliant with all trade regulations. For more information about our global trade management software offerings, please contact us.

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