A few weeks ago the European Union (EU) published a web-based mapping and visualization tool of current EU and United Nations sanctions. Created by the government of Estonia, with a few clicks users will have a better sense whether additional research is needed for a proposed export of goods or services. Here is the introductory video:
While I would never recommend that a client make an export decision on a map, exporters could use a few more practical tools such as this web-based, free tool. While the information is basic, for someone not familiar with the EU restrictive measures system it is an excellent research tool to get your bearings. And even if you’re a seasoned sanctions lawyer or compliance professional, it is a visually appealing way to review data.
If you or your company has to interact with the legal and regulatory brambles that make up any global economic sanctions program, you know that the compliance costs are high. These tools not only help reduce costs for companies that cannot hire a full-time trade compliance specialist or lawyer but can help seasoned professionals organize research or explain issues to clients and customers.
As for similar U.S. tools, there is much room for improvement. Compared to a decade ago, it is much easier to find information about different sanctions and export controls; however, the interaction with the user remains clunky. To their credit, the Obama administration accomplished a lot in this space including a consolidated screening list.
It is not clear what the Trump administration plans to do concerning the export control reform initiative, but at a minimum, it should continue list consolidation as well as creating tools similar to the EU mapping tool. While the U.S. screening tools are alright, the Estonian mapping tool is light years ahead of Uncle Sam’s web-based interfaces.
Tiny yet nimble Estonia, with EU support and funding, has produced a superior product. Considering how much U.S. taxpayer money is spent on these matters, we can do better. I don’t even think it is about the money; it’s likely inertia and inter-agency friction with a lot of Congressional meddling. I bet if a competition were hosted by Uncle Sam, multiple competitors would compete to design a similar tool.