First, regarding the effects of this piece of legislation on US obligations under international trade law, European partners of the United States would be right to point out that, if enacted, the legislation would violate the spirit and text of WTO laws and regulations. In fact, by deterring European business people, contractors and CEOs of major companies from going to certain countries, by imposing fear of compromising their US ties, the US government is practically giving American companies, namely oil companies, an unfair and illicit advantage in those markets.
This is something that directly goes against the “national treatment principle,” along with the “Most-Favoured-Nation” rule, which constitute the two pillars of the nondiscrimination principle that forms the foundation of the WTO trading regime.
Of course, this is an issue that European countries, along with Australia, Japan and South Korea, could raise at the WTO Dispute Settlement Forum, at the United States’ expense, since the latter has not yet provided a convincing and legally sound justification for the enactment of this bill. In fact, David O’Sullivan, the European Union ambassador to the United States, has already called the vote on these new restrictive measures “extremely counterproductive” and added that “some of these ideas are being rushed through without necessarily thinking out fully the consequences.”
The EU has a history of opposing such measures, which it perceives as the “politicization of trade,” within the framework of the WTO. Indeed, in 1997, EU countries threatened formal counteraction in this forum over the Iran Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), which later resulted in a decision by the Clinton administration to waive ILSA sanctions on the first project determined to be in violation.
Indeed, European countries have all the more reason to oppose this bill, as the United States at the end of the nuclear negotiations with Iran reportedly gave them the requested guarantees with regard to conducting business in Iran without such hindrances, so long as the JCPOA is properly implemented.