For the second week of our Annual Compliance Conference, we discussed key trade compliance issues impacting our clients globally. Specifically, we discussed the trade policy response of the US, EU and U.K. to ever increasing geopolitical disruption, global strategies for handling sanctions regulators and enforcement, and key global sanctions and export controls developments.

Trade policy response to geopolitical disruption – China and beyond

Tuesday 7 May

SPEAKERS: Tristan Grimmer (Partner, London), Sylwia Lis (Partner, Washington DC), Frank Pan (Partner, FenXun Shanghai), Arnoud Willems (Partner, Brussels), Zeyang Gao (Associate, London), Emily Thomson (Associate, London)

With trade policies increasingly being used as tools to respond to geopolitical disruption, this session focused on the key policy responses across the US, UK, China, and the EU.

Speakers summarised key policies being implemented and proposed – including both inbound and outbound screening regimes, export controls, foreign subsidy review, and trade remedies. Our speakers also reflected on how these policies have evolved as a consequence of shifting geopolitical relations and are being intentionally deployed to provide a holistic trade policy response, as well as how China is responding to such policies.

In relation to outbound investment controls, the session focused on the US Executive Order establishing a new outbound investment program and the proposal from the EU to bring in similar controls, which is subject to an initial assessment period before a formal proposal may be forthcoming later in 2025. These regimes intend to monitor outbound investment flows due to concerns that sensitive technologies or know-how could be made available to outside investors as part of these transactions, with competitive advantage being lost in relation to critical technologies. From an export controls perspective, the session noted developments across the EU, UK and US which are also focussed on critical technologies, including semiconductors, quantum computing, AI, additive manufacturing and biotechnology. The speakers offered insights into future trends in export controls and how we may expect them to continue developing in future.

The session concluded with insights into the EU’s expanding trade tool box including foreign subsidy review, which recently saw its first dawn raid at a Chinese security equipment manufacturer that was driven to a significant degree by national security concerns. It was observed that the deployment of these various trade policy tools remains a delicate balancing act, as the US and EU seek to de-risk their relationship with China without doing unintended harm to a trading relationship that holds the key in many sectors to the EU meeting its policy objectives, including environmental.

You can access the webinar recording here.

Global strategies for handling sanctions regulators and enforcement

Wednesday 8 May

SPEAKERS: Sven Bates (Of Counsel, London), Olof Konig (Partner, Stockholm), Terry Gilroy (Partner, New York), Meera Rolaz (Senior Associate, Zurich), Courtney Mackness (Associate, London)

With sanctions investigations and enforcements on the rise – including on a cross-jurisdictional basis – as well as more frequent sanctions-driven dealings with regulatory authorities more generally, it is imperative that organisations consider strategy when engaging with sanctions authorities. In this session, our speakers provided insights into the variety of ways of engaging with sanctions authorities, took a deep dive into varying approaches to licensing and notifications and discussed key considerations, trends and learnings in the context of sanctions investigations and enforcements across the US, UK, EU and Switzerland.

In relation to licensing and notifications, our speakers discussed the imminent need for licences for the provision of certain intra-group services and software following the expiry of the EU’s exemption on 20 June 2024, with a particular focus on the challenges in obtaining such licences as a result of the diverging approaches of Member States and key considerations when engaging with relevant authorities in relation to such licences. This position was contrasted to the approach of SECO, the relevant Swiss authority, followed by learnings from the UK given its ‘head start’ in licensing for similar activities as a result of never introducing a corresponding exemption. In addition, speakers discussed licensing and notifications in the context of divestments from Russia, including recent approaches to licensing for share sales where there are controlled products within the company’s portfolio, payment of exit taxes and relevant timings.

Leveraging considerable experience working on sanctions investigations and enforcement matters, including learnings from the first wave of investigations and enforcements arising as a result of Russian sanctions, our speakers discussed key points in the life cycle of a sanctions investigation, recent investigation and enforcement trends and the pinch-points for strategic decisions – including before making a voluntary self-disclosure – and engagements with sanctions authorities as part of these processes.

The session was concluded by the speakers outlining other considerations when engaging with sanctions authorities, particularly in the context of asset freezes.

You can access the webinar recording here.

Global sanctions and export controls update

Thursday 9 May

SPEAKERS: Ben Smith (Partner, London), Kana Itabashi (Partner, Tokyo), Julia Webster (Partner, Toronto), Andrew Rose (Senior Associate, London), Michael Amberg (Senior Associate, London), Johanna Asplund (Associate, London), Kimberley Fischer (Associate, Berlin)

Further geopolitical events in recent months have continued to impact the scope and severity of sanctions and export controls worldwide. In this session, our speakers provided an update on key recent developments in this area across the US, UK, Canada, Japan, and the EU.

Speakers covered key legislative and regulatory developments – including recent sanctions packages – as well as sanctions licensing insights, efforts to tackle circumvention, litigation updates, and recent guidance from enforcement agencies around the world.

On the sanctions side, the session focused heavily on Russia, with the further sanctions in the form of designations as well as product, service, and software controls, while also outlining other developments on sanctions regimes across the globe (notably with respect to the Middle East, Africa and China).

The session concluded with insights into the further evolution of export controls. The speakers provided an overview of how each jurisdiction is enhancing its export control measures to keep up with advanced technological developments, and offered an outlook on the both interesting and challenging times ahead for export control legislators around the world.

You can access the webinar recording here

The Annual Compliance Conference is held virtually across five weeks from 29 April – 6 June.  Every year it attracts over 4,000 in-house senior legal and compliance professionals from across the world. With a speaker faculty from all regions of our global team, we will be delivering our cutting-edge insights and guidance virtually on key global compliance, investigations and ethics trends. 

To register for the other sessions and access the recordings, click here.

Frank Pan is a partner of FenXun Partners who is a premier Chinese law firm. FenXun established a Joint Operation Office with Baker McKenzie in China as Baker McKenzie FenXun which was approved by the Shanghai Justice Bureau in 2015.

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Tristan Grimmer is a partner in Baker McKenzie's London office and the UK Head of the International Trade Practice Group. He is also a member of the Compliance & Investigations and the International Trade and Competition practice groups. Tristan joined Baker McKenzie as a trainee in March 2004, qualifying in March 2006. He has advised on parallel investigations by authorities in the United States, Switzerland, Brazil and Japan, and has spent time working in Baker McKenzie's Chicago office. Tristan is named as a "Leading Individual" for EU And Competition: Trade, WTO Anti-Dumping and Customs in the UK Legal 500 2023 directory.

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Ms. Lis has extensive experience advising companies on US laws relating to exports and reexports of commercial goods and technology, defense trade controls and trade sanctions — including licensing, regulatory interpretations, compliance programs and enforcement matters. She also has advised clients on national security reviews of foreign investment administered by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), including CFIUS-related due diligence, risk assessment, and representation before the CFIUS agencies.

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Sven Bates is Of Counsel for International Trade at Baker McKenzie. He has spent the majority of his career at the Firm's London office, focusing on international trade compliance, trade remedies and anti-bribery. He has also practiced in Amsterdam and has previously worked for the European Commission and the Shadow Attorney General. Sven has extensive experience in particular in the financial services sector, and has undertaken secondments at a Tier 1 UK bank and the Lloyd's insurance market.

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Terry Gilroy is a partner in the New York office of Baker McKenzie and a member of the Investigations Compliance and Ethics Practice Group. Prior to joining the Firm in 2018, Terry served as Americas Head of the Financial Crime Legal function at Barclays. Terry advises businesses and individuals on white collar and financial crime issues and has significant experience conducting investigations relating to compliance with the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and related bribery and corruption statutes, economic sanctions regulations as administered by the US Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and the Bank Secrecy Act and related anti-money laundering (AML) regulations and statutes. Terry spent six years on active duty in the United States Army as a Field Artillery officer.

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Ben Smith is a Partner in Baker McKenzie’s London office and a member of the firm’s Compliance & Investigations and International Trade practice groups. Both these practices are ranked Tier 1 by Legal 500 UK. Ben joined the London office of Baker & McKenzie in September 2007. He has also worked in Baker McKenzie's San Francisco and Brussels offices, as well as on secondment to the legal and compliance teams at three FTSE 100 UK plcs. The Legal 500 UK ranked Ben as a “Rising Star”, noting “Ben Smith is a pleasure to work with. Professional, knowledgeable and always ready to assist with practical solutions.”

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Julia Webster is a disputes and international trade lawyer. She advises companies on trade remedies, free trade agreements, blocking measures, customs compliance, anti-corruption laws, economic sanctions, AML compliance, supply chain ethics, and cross-border M&A.

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Courtney is an associate in the Competition, Trade and Foreign Investment practice group, with a focus on trade and foreign investment matters across a range of sectors. She joined Baker McKenzie in 2022 from another large international law firm where she also advised on a range of international trade matters, including a three year secondment to the trading entity of a global energy major.

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Johanna is a trainee solicitor in the EU, Competition and Trade team in London.

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Kimberley focuses on international, European and public law governing international trade compliance and sustainability. She advises clients on internal compliance systems, sanctions and embargo regimes, export control law and foreign investment reviews. She accompanies internal and external investigations and self-disclosures of export control and sanctions breaches. In addition, she assists clients in complying with the rapidly evolving EU and German legal landscape on sustainability, in particular the new directives and regulations under the EU Green Deal and the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act. This includes setting up and improving corporate governance structures and internal compliance programs with regard to environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters.