The deputy director of CEOE International, Álvaro Schweinfurth, participated last May 20 in the Internationalization Dialogues of ESADE to discuss international sanctions. The meeting was also attended by the Director General of Commercial Policy and Competitiveness of the State Secretariat of Commerce, José Luis Kaiser; the head of the Legal Services unit on behalf of the State of CESCE, Carolina Andérez; the president of the Exporters Club, Antonio Bonet and the managing partner of International Operations of Lupicicio International Law Firm, José María Viñals. During the discussion table, issues such as international sanctions were addressed, a complex scenario for the Spanish company that operates internationally; protection against the risks associated with this new panorama of international trade; the "Secondary sanctions"; and the sanctions for political-commercial war.
In the inaugural speech, the general director of Commercial Policy and Competitiveness, José Luis Kaiser, highlighted the high degree of internationalization of the Spanish economy, which, in 2018, stood between the total exports and imports of the country, at 66 , 7% of GDP, a figure that exceeds that of other countries in our environment, such as Italy, the United Kingdom and France, and that is an increase of 20 percentage points over 2009 and 9 percentage points, compared to with the historical maximum of opening to the outside reached in 2007. As additional data, it emphasized that the number of regular exporters reached the number of 51.769 companies in 2018, which represents an increase of 2.4% over the previous year. He also highlighted the strong investment activity of Spanish companies abroad that in the last four years reached 71,300 million euros, with priority being given to the OECD and EU countries.
He also stressed the existence of a changing environment in which, as main factors, the technological transformation, driven by digitalization, and the growing geopolitical tensions, which, in the latter case, have led to the proliferation of economic sanctions, have had an impact.
He explained that economic actions are used by the United Nations as a measure of pressure to combat terrorism or the production or possession of weapons of mass destruction. Its adoption requires the support of the majority of the members of the Security Council and the absence of a veto by its five permanent members.
He clarified that economic sanctions have, among its main objectives, to freeze assets and prevent economic transactions with public entities, private companies and individuals involved in activities that contravene the spirit of the United Nations.
He also indicated that the sanctions adopted by the European Union are divided into three categories: the transposition of United Nations sanctions, the transposition of United Nations sanctions reinforced by EU sanctions (complementary sanctions) and EU sanctions.
Subsequently, Schweinfurth spoke about the side effects of the sanctions applied by the United States to Cuba and Iran. He spoke, in the case of Cuba, about the Blockade Regulation, which aims to defend the assets of companies located on European soil against the execution of judgments issued by US courts under the Helms Burton Act, as well as allowing European companies bring lawsuits against European companies or individuals against the European courts for the prejudices they have caused to European companies. In relation to Iran, he mentioned the creation of the INSTEX financial vehicle, in order to facilitate the commercial transactions of European companies with Iran. However, it is an instrument that requires further development.
In his speech, Álvaro Schweinfurth said that in the current era, marked by growing geopolitical tensions, there is a proliferation of economic sanctions, which contrasts with periods of greater political stability in which this type of measures were approved in an exceptional way. He emphasized that, if before the sanctions were adopted with the greatest possible international support in the UN or at least through a consensus between the United States and the European Union, now some countries begin to adopt unilateral sanctions, which still generates more uncertainty among companies.
Regarding the extraterritorial effects of the economic sanctions adopted by the United States on Cuba and Iran, the level of protection of European companies varies greatly in both cases. Thus, while the Statute of Blockade can offer effective, albeit partial, protection to European companies against judicial actions by US courts; In the case of Iran, it is very different because of the different economic nature of the sanctions adopted by the United States against the Persian nation. In this case, the biggest problem that arises, according to Schweinfurth, is that the euro currency is not a currency of international transactions such as the US dollar, so he insisted on the need to convert the euro into a reference currency in the international transactions.
In the second part of his speech he summarized the role that CEOE plays in defense of Spanish interests. Thus, in the case of economic sanctions adopted by the EU to Iran and Russia, CEOE, like the rest of the BUSINESSEUROPE members, has focused its work on clarifying doubts that arise from the interpretation of EU regulations, disseminating the sanctioning regulations among its members and ensure that EU regulations are applied uniformly throughout the EU.
In the case of economic sanctions with extraterritorial effects, such as the Helms Burton Act, CEOE has deployed an intense activity before the Spanish and Community Authorities to guarantee an effective application of the Blockade Statute.
Finally, both CEOE and BUSINESSEUROPE insist that if governments consider the need to adopt economic sanctions, they should be applied respecting international legality and starting with the maximum agreement between governments.