Trump could spark trade row over Iran deal, warn lawyers

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Oct 17, 2017
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President Trump declined to certify the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran last week

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President Trump has laid the groundwork for a potential transatlantic trade dispute by deciding not to certify the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran, lawyers warned yesterday. 

Legal experts said there was still a chance that Iran could avoid a reimposition of US sanctions, as Congress could simply refuse to resurrect the sanction regime despite the president throwing doubt over the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA) involving the country.

“President Trump’s refusal to certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA does not necessarily mean that US secondary sanctions will be reimposed on Iran immediately — or indeed at all,” said Patrick Murphy, a sanctions law specialist partner at Clyde & Co, a City of London law firm.

However, Murphy added that if the US did impose so-called snap-back sanctions, the EU could feel forced to react. Brussels has encouraged Washington to maintain its commitment to the JCPOA, but “if the US does ultimately reimpose secondary sanctions which affect EU businesses, it opens up the possibility of retaliatory EU blocking legislation and the beginnings of a transatlantic trade dispute”, Murphy said.

Douglas Maag, a senior counsel at the firm, said that Congress was not required under US legislation to reimpose sanctions. “Indeed, given the current US political divides, it is entirely possible that Congress will not act,” he said.

Maag pointed out that the US’s Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act simply provides a means for expedited consideration by Congress of “qualifying legislation” if it is introduced in the 60 days following non-certification. 

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