Tuesday, July 29, 2014

29/7/2014: Latest Round of EU Sanctions: Mirroring the U.S. and upping the ante...

EU finally agreed on the new round of sanctions against Russia - the full document is available here: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/EN/foraff/144159.pdf

"In order to restrict Russia's access to EU capital markets, EU nationals and companies may no more buy or sell new bonds, equity or similar financial instruments with a maturity exceeding 90 days, issued by state-owned Russian banks, development banks, their subsidiaries and those acting on their behalf. Services related to the issuing of such financial instruments, e.g. brokering, are also prohibited." This is basically symmetric to the previous US sanctions (see: http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2014/07/1772014-more-russia-sanctions-same.html note: updated link to US sanctions here: http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/pages/jl2572.aspx) though EU sanctions are covering all "state-owned Russian banks, development banks, their subsidiaries" not just those covered in the US sanctions.

"In addition, an embargo on the import and export of arms and related material from/to Russia was agreed. It covers all items on the EU common military list." These involve military equipment and equipment modified for military use, albeit some Mercedes G-Wagon retrofits, favoured by Russian vintage mafiosi, might qualify as well. Maybachs with protective plating will probably escape, unless someone orders an all-wheel-drive one...

"…prohibition on exports of dual use goods and technology for military use in Russia or to Russian military end-users." These are problematic as the lists are more ambiguous and broader. I am not an expert on this subject, but overall, such blanket prohibitions under what often amounts to relatiist testing procedures can have a much broader impact than intended.

"Finally, exports of certain energy-related equipment and technology to Russia will be subject to prior authorisation by competent authorities of Member States. Export licenses will be denied if products are destined for deep water oil exploration and production, arctic oil exploration or production and shale oil projects in Russia." This is symmetric to the US sanctions. It is interesting to note that the sanctions are designed specifically to hurt Russian energy sector in areas where the sector competes head-on with US and Canada: shale oil and arctic oil. On-shore traditional oil is not impacted.

Materially, and speaking strictly personally, I do not expect the new round of sanctions to have a direct impact on Irish bilateral trade with Russia, relating to goods, but we can see significant impact on transactions via IFSC (http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2014/07/2172014-sources-of-fdi-into-russia-2007.html). You can see breakdown of goods flows with Russia here: http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2014/07/1772014-irish-bilateral-trade-in-goods.html. The impact is intended, as in the case of the US sanctions, to be longer-term, restricting funding opportunities for major Russian companies and reducing their free cash flows (by forcing them to use cash flow to close off maturing debt). Ironically, also in the longer term, this can lead to Russian companies issuing more equity and debt domestically, deepening domestic financial markets, and carrying less debt overall, making their balancesheets stronger. The short-term impact is likely to be reputational and risk-related as some exporters and investors will opt to stay out of the Russian market in fear of future additional sanctions and faced with a prospect of dealing with EU and US bureaucracy (not to mention the prospect of dealing with their Russian counterparts).

On a geopolitical note, the sanctions are now starting to ramp up pressure on Russian leadership. What the reaction might be is anyone's guess, but I suspect we are not likely to see major and rapid de-escalation soon (http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2014/07/2872014-double-up-or-stay-course-in.html). Which is not a good outcome for all parties concerned and especially for the Ukrainian people.

Updated: the US has now matched the broader EU sanctions: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/07/29/us-ukraine-crisis-sanctions-obama-idUSKBN0FY27Q20140729?utm_source=twitter U.S. sanctions on banks remain in the area of funding, but not in the area of transactions.

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