An embargo is an official ban by a government on trade or other commercial activity with a particular country or the exchange of specific goods. An embargo is typically the result of unfavorable economic or political circumstances between the two countries. There are several types of embargos. Embargos include banning exports or imports to and from countries, imposing tolls or taxes on a specific country, freezing or seizing assets or bank accounts, limit the transport of particular products or technologies, and creating quotas for quantities. Embargos deal with trade-related activity, while sanctions, which are similar to embargos, are used for all other disciples of prohibitions.
Embargos can have serious negative effects on a country’s economy from both restricting access to certain goods and by decreasing the number of exports. Worldwide trade is key to a country’s economic prosperity. There are currently six embargoed nations with the United States: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Sudan, and Syria.
The United States currently imposes a commercial, economic, and financial embargo against Cuba. The first embargo was placed on the sale of arms to Cuba in 1958 and was extended to all exports in 1962. Violations of the embargo are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, which some claim is too harsh of a punishment. Even with the embargo in place, the United States is still the fifth-largest exporter to Cuba, accounting for 6.6% of Cuba’s imports. Cuba, however, must pay for U.S. goods in cash. The United States applies economic, trade, scientific, and military sanctions against Iran. The first of these sanctions were imposed by President Carter in 1979, freezing $12 billion in Iranian assets. In March of 1995, President Clinton issued an executive order prohibiting U.S. trade in Iran’s oil industry, and then a second order prohibiting all U.S. trade with Iran two months later in May.
There are several countries with sanctions and embargos against North Korea, many of which are concerned with the country’s nuclear weapons program. The US first imposed sanctions on North Korea during the 1950s and then tightened them during the 1980s after North Korea bombed South Korea. The sanctions still stand in North Korea, as well as a U.S. travel ban, imposed after the death of tourist Otto Warmbier in a North Korea prison. US sanctions against Russia began after Russia invaded the Crimea region of Ukraine in 2014. This includes financial and economic sanctions and military cooperation, with additional sanctions being added later such as trade (embargos) and corporate sanctions. The United States and the European Union have since then placed numerous sanctions on the country, companies, and individuals, including government officials, freezing assets and suspending funding. In August of 2018, the United States imposed a ban on arms sales, U.S. financial assistance, exports of national-security-sensitive goods, and most foreign assistance to Russia. Sanctions against Russia have been extended until 2020.
In October 1997, the United States placed financial and economic sanctions and an embargo on Sudan. President George W. Bush imposed new economic sanctions in May 2007, blocking assets of Sudanese citizens implicated in the Darfur conflict. On October 6, 2017, the United States permanently lifted all 1997 sanctions. Syria is the sixth country that the United States has an embargo against. Under the Syria Accountability Act, the U.S. prohibits or restricts the export or re-export of most U.S. products to Syria. Additionally, there are a number of economic sanctions on Syria including ineligibility to receive aid from the U.S. and freezing assets of the Government of Syria.