What is the Trading with the Enemy Act 1917 (US)?

Introduction

The Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) of 1917 (40 Stat. 411, codified at 12 U.S.C. § 95 and 50 U.S.C. § 4301 et seq.) is a United States federal law, enacted on 06 October 1917 (during World War I), that gives the President of the United States the power to oversee or restrict any and all trade between the United States and its enemies in times of war.

TWEA was amended in 1933 by the Emergency Banking Act to extend the president’s authority also in peace time. It was amended again in 1977 by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to restrict the application of TWEA only in times of war, while the IEEPA was intended to be used in peace time.

TWEA is sometimes confused with the IEEPA, which grants somewhat broader powers to the President, and which is invoked during states of emergency when the United States is not at war. The IEEPA was passed in an attempt to rein in perceived abuses by the US President of the TWEA by making the powers subject to the National Emergencies Act (NEA). The NEA included a legislative veto to allow Congress to terminate a national emergency with a concurrent resolution. However, the US Supreme Court found such legislative vetoes unconstitutional in Immigration and Naturalisation Service v. Chadha. Following the Court’s decision, Congress amended the NEA to require a joint resolution.

The law set the basis for sanctions by the United States. As of 2018, Cuba is the only country restricted under TWEA. North Korea was removed from the provisions of TWEA in 2008, although restrictions under IEEPA authority remain in effect.

Refer to Trading with the Enemy Act.

Brief History

The United States declared war on Germany on 06 April 1917. TWEA was enacted on 06 October 1917 and on 22 October 1917, President Woodrow Wilson by Executive Order 2729-A created the Office of Alien Property Custodian (APC) under TWEA with power to confiscate property from anyone whose actions might be considered a possible threat to the war effort. Initially, the Custodian confiscated the property of interned natives of Germany and of businesses, such as the Bayer chemical company. On 07 December 1917, the United States declared war on the Austria-Hungary Empire, the other Central Power.

In 1933, newly-elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Proclamation 2039, which declared a national emergency and imposed a bank holiday. The proclamation cited TWEA (obliquely referenced as the “Act of October 6, 1917”) as the basis of his authority. Aware that such action was legally dubious since the United States was not at war, Roosevelt asked Congress to ratify his actions by passing the Emergency Banking Relief Act, which amended TWEA to enable its use during any “period of national emergency declared by the President.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt, using these new authorities, issued Executive Order 6102 to limit gold ownership. These restrictions continued until 01 January 1975. The TWEA has been amended several other times.

During and after both World Wars, property frozen by the United States, belonging to neutral or allied nations, was returned and property belonging to enemy nations was continuously confiscated until hostilities ceased. Some of the confiscated enemy property would not be returned later. Agreements to return some or most assets in exchange for seized American assets and reparations for war-damaged American interests by the new governments of the former enemy nations were later concluded. Nations or organizations that were deemed less responsible for starting the wars receive much more favourable treatment. The United States instituted the Italian Enemy Act of 1947 to deal with former members of the Mussolini regime from controlling interest in US based businesses under the TWEA Act of 1917.

On 16 December 1950, the United States imposed economic sanctions against North Korea under TWEA,[10] which lasted until 2008.

On 13 May 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson abolished the Office of Alien Property Custodian by Executive Order 11281, effective 30 June of that year.

On 15 August 1971, President Richard M. Nixon issued Proclamation 4074, which declared a national emergency under TWEA and imposed a 10% ad valorem supplemental duty on all dutiable articles imported into the United States.

Countries Sanctioned under the Trading with the Enemy Act

Albania

Albania was invaded by the Central Powers during World War I (WW1). While the Central Powers occupied Albania, its assets from the areas they occupied were frozen to prevent the Central Powers from using Albanian assets. Because of this policy, once Central Powers occupation ended the sanctions were effectively lifted.

During World War II (WW2) Albania was listed in 1941, to prevent its assets from being used first by the invading fascist Italy and then by the invading Nazi Germany, and was delisted in 1946.

Andorra

Andorra remained officially neutral during WW2. However, it was a tiny country between Axis-friendly Spain and the German puppet state Vichy France. Andorra was listed in 1941, to prevent its assets from being used by Nazi Germany and Vichy France, and was delisted in 1946.

Austria

Austria was invaded and annexed by Germany. It was listed in 1941, to prevent its assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany, and was delisted in 1946.

Austro-Hungarian Empire

The Austro-Hungarian Empire was sanctioned in 1917 as an enemy state. It continued to be sanctioned until after its defeat and dissolution in 1918 into Austria and Hungary. The United States remained at “war” with the then-non-existent dissolved country for several years until deciding to ratify peace treaties with Austria and Hungary separately 1921. No actual combat is known to have taken place between the United States and Austria or Hungary after the empire’s dissolution and before the ratification of the peace treaties.

Belgium

Belgium’s property was frozen in the event the property was from the areas the invading Central Powers occupied during WW1 to prevent the Central powers from using its assets. If the area was not occupied, the assets were not frozen. Because of this policy, once Central Power occupation ended the sanctions were effectively lifted.

Belgium was listed again in 1940, to prevent its assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany, and was delisted in 1946.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria was a German and Austro-Hungarian ally during WW1 and some of its property was frozen or confiscated by the United States. The United States and Bulgaria avoided declaring war on each other during WW1.

During WW2 Bulgaria was an axis power and was sanctioned again in 1941. Sanctions were lifted in 1945. In 1963 the government of Bulgaria agreed to accept American claims for lost property and war damages so the Bulgarians were allowed to reclaim the property America seized during WW2.

Cambodia

Cambodia was sanctioned in 1975 as a result of the Vietnam War. Trading With the Enemy Act sanctions were lifted in 1992.

China

China was listed on two occasions. The Republic of China was first listed in 1941 to prevent invading Japan from using Chinese assets during WW2. China was delisted in 1946. After WW2 the People’s Republic of China was sanctioned and listed in 1950 for aggression in the Korean War. After President Richard Nixon’s “opening with China” sanctions were lifted in 1975.

Cuba

Following the Cuban missile crisis, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the nationalisation of US property by the Castro regime, the United States imposed sanctions on Cuba in 1963. TWEA sanctions continued throughout the Cold War because the US and Cuba often found themselves on opposite sides in various proxy conflicts throughout Latin America and Africa. The sanctions on Cuba were increased after the Cuban air force killed American protesters who were known to violate Cuban airspace. Cuba is currently the only state still under sanctions under TWEA.

Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia was invaded and annexed by Germany. In 1941 it was listed to prevent its assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany. Czechoslovakia was delisted in 1946. Czechoslovakian assets were held until the government of Czechoslovakia agreed to return assets its German installed occupation government expropriated during WW2. These restrictions were lifted sometime between 1964 and 1967 after an agreement was reached.

Danzig

Danzig was listed in 1941 to prevent its assets from being used by the Nazi Germany. Germany was forced to give up the city of Danzig after WWI. As a result of it being a former German city, there was a considerable amount of support for Nazi Germany to re-annex the territory within the mostly ethnic German Free City of Danzig. The annexation of Danzig happened early in WWII. Sanctions were continued until Danzig ceased to exist. Danzig was made part of Poland and renamed Gdańsk. Danzig’s German inhabitants were expelled to Germany as part of the Soviet proposal to prevent the German diaspora outside German borders after WWI from helping start another world war by requesting annexation.

Denmark

Denmark was listed in 1940 to prevent its assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany, and was delisted in 1946.

East Germany

East Germany, or eastern Germany before 1949, and East Berlin origin assets were held until the government of East German agreed to return assets the Nazi German government expropriated during WW2. These restrictions were lifted sometime between 1964 and 1967 after an agreement was reached.

Estonia

Estonia was listed in 1940, to prevent its assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany, and was delisted in 1946. Estonian assets were held until the government of Estonia agreed to return assets its German installed occupation government expropriated during WW2. These restrictions were lifted sometime between 1964 and 1967 after an agreement was reached.

Finland

Finland was invaded in 1939 by the Soviet Union. As a result of this it allied itself with Germany against the Soviet Union during most of WW2. It was consequently sanctioned in 1941. Finland was considered an ally of an enemy under TWTEA until the Lapland war in which Finland changed sides. Finland would have then been eligible for the classification of “allies or neutrals” and delisted with the rest of that group in 1946.

France

During WW1, France’s property was frozen in the event the property was from the areas occupied by the invading Central Powers to prevent the Central powers from using its assets. If the area was not occupied, the assets were not frozen. Because of this policy, once central power occupation ended the sanctions were effectively lifted. During WW2, France was listed in 1940 to prevent its assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany. France was delisted in 1946.

Germany

The Empire of Germany was first sanctioned in 1917 for its role in WW1. Germany remained sanctioned until a US-German peace treaty was ratified in 1921.

Nazi Germany was sanctioned again in 1941 for its role in WW2. Sanctions were lifted in 1946. As Germany was judged to have a primary role in starting both world wars, the United States policy was to confiscate and sell off German assets that Germans acquired before 1946.

Greece

Greece was listed in 1941, to prevent assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany, and was delisted in 1946.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong was listed in 1941, to prevent its assets from being used by invading Japan, and was delisted in 1946.

Haiti

The military government of Haiti led by General Raoul Cedras and afiliated members such as the CIA-created FRAPH was listed under the International Economic Powers Act(IEPA Act), now with the Trading With the Enemy Act that has its roots in World War I and the EIPA Act during the Cold War between the US and the former Soviet Union .Many members of the Haitian Army (FADH) who had properties in the US, their properties were either frozen or confiscated by the Bill Clinton administration until they agree with the return of deposed President Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Hungary

Hungary was an axis power and sanctioned in 1941. Sanctions were lifted in 1945. Hungarian assets were held until the government of Hungary agreed to return assets its government expropriated during WW2 and accept claims for war damages caused by Hungary.

Italy

Italy was an axis power until Italy was invaded and Mussolini’s government deposed. Italy was sanctioned in 1941. Sanctions were lifted in 1943 after the allies installed a friendly government and it switched sides. Italy accepted an agreement to return expropriated American property and accept claims for war damages so it was allowed to reclaim its seized property.

Japan

In 1940 US President Roosevelt sanctioned Japan to punish it for invading China and southern Indochina under the Export Control Act. In 1941 he imposed sanctions under TWEA. Some claim that this was the reason for the attack on Pearl Harbour later in 1941. Sanctions were lifted in 1946. Japan was deeply unpopular for the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour. Because Japan was the reason for the United States entering WWII, and due to the fact many Americans wanted to stay out of European wars during both wartime periods, Japanese assets that the Japanese acquired before 1946 were confiscated and sold.

Latvia

Latvia was listed in 1940, to prevent its assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany, and was delisted in 1946. Latvian assets were held until the government of Latvia agreed to return assets its German installed occupation government expropriated during WW2. These restrictions were lifted sometime between 1964 and 1967 after an agreement was reached.

Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein was listed in 1941. Liechtenstein was perceived to be on Germany’s side by some allies even though it remained neutral. Liechtenstein was delisted in 1946.

Lithuania

Lithuania was listed in 1940, to prevent assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany, and was delisted in 1946. Lithuanian assets were held until the government of Lithuania agreed to return assets its German installed occupation government expropriated during WW2. These restrictions were lifted sometime between 1964 and 1967 after an agreement was reached.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg was listed in 1940, to prevent its assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany, and was delisted in 1946.

Monaco

Monaco was listed in 1940, to prevent its assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany, and was delisted in 1946.

Montenegro

Montenegro was invaded by the central powers during WWI. While the central powers occupied Montenegro, its assets from the areas they occupied were frozen to prevent the central powers from using Montenegrin assets. Because of this policy, once central power occupation ended the sanctions were effectively lifted.

North Korea

North Korea was sanctioned in 1950 for aggression in the Korean War. The war is still officially in effect, with no peace treaty signed, and the sanctions has been kept due to North Korean terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and continued aggression towards the United States. Trading with the Enemy Act sanctions were lifted in 2008 in response to North Korea’s steps toward nuclear disarmament and commitments to continue dismantling its nuclear weapons programme. However, North Korea later developed and tested several more nuclear weapons indicating that it was lying. North Korea’s designation was grandfathered from an old version of the law that allowed it to be used absent a declaration of war. Because there is no declaration of war between the United States and North Korea, TWEA sanctions cannot be reapplied but it was re-sanctioned for reneging on its commitments through the IEEPA, along with other laws, and through UN Security Council resolutions.

North Vietnam

North Vietnam was sanctioned in 1964 during the Vietnam war. Sanctions were continued until North Vietnam ceased to exist and were inherited by the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Norway

Norway was listed in 1940 to prevent its assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany. Norway was delisted in 1946.

Ottoman Empire

The Ottoman Empire was an ally of Austro-Hungary and Germany and was sanctioned in 1917. It remained sanctioned after its defeat in 1918 until its dissolution in 1921. The Ottoman Empire and the United States are not known to have fought each other and little, if any, property was seized as the Ottoman Empire had few resources that would contribute to its war effort within the United States. It was judged by the Office of the Alien Property Custodian that seizing the small amount of non-war related Ottoman property that was actually in the United States was counter-productive and would invite the Ottoman Empire to seize a larger amount of American property back. The Ottoman Empire was also known for brutally treating civilian enemies and detractors. The US didn’t want to provoke the Ottoman such that the Ottoman would target US citizens living within the areas it controlled and prompt unnecessary mutual declarations of war.

Poland

Poland was listed in 1941 to prevent its assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany. Poland was delisted in 1946.

Portugal

Portugal was listed in 1941. Portugal was a British ally, however it was officially neutral as a part of an allied strategy to avoid costly and pyrrhic military commitments to defend the Iberian peninsula during WW2. Spain would have likely declared war on the axis side if Portugal entered on the allied side opening a large unnecessary front. While a neutral it traded raw materials used in military production with Germany though it gave much more assistance and trade to the allies than the axis. Portugal was delisted in 1948.

Rumania(sic)

Romania was invaded by the central powers during WW1. While the central powers occupied Romania, its assets from the areas they occupied were frozen to prevent the central powers from using Romanian assets. Because of this policy, once central power occupation ended the sanctions were effectively lifted. In WW2 Romania was an axis power and sanctioned in 1940. Sanctions were lifted in 1945. Romanian assets were held until the government of Romania agreed to return assets its government expropriated during WW2 and accept claims for war damage caused by Romania.

Romania has a long history of being misspelled by previous members of the government of the United States. Rumania and Roumania are common misspellings used in government documents.

Russia

Russian Empire property was frozen in the event the property was from the areas the invading Central Powers occupied during WW1 to prevent the Central powers from using Russian assets. If the area was not occupied, the assets were not frozen. Because of this policy, once central power occupation ended the sanctions were effectively lifted.

San Marino

San Marino was listed in 1941. San Marino was perceived to be part of the axis though it remained neutral. San Marino was delisted in 1946.

Serbia

Serbia was invaded by the central powers during WWI. While the central powers occupied Serbia, its assets from the areas they occupied were frozen to prevent the central powers from using Serb assets. Because of this policy, once central power occupation ended the sanctions were effectively lifted.

Spain

Spain was listed in 1941 for aiding the Axis though officially remaining neutral. Spain was delisted in 1946

Sweden

Sweden was listed in 1941. While Sweden was officially neutral, it aided both sides during WWII to avoid being at war with either. Sweden was delisted in 1946.

Switzerland

Switzerland was listed in 1941. Although neutral during WWII, it engaged in combat against both sides for infringing on its airspace or territory. Switzerland was delisted in 1946

Thailand

Thailand was sanctioned in 1941. Thailand was invaded by the Japanese and as a negotiated settlement to the conflict they became a Japanese ally during WW2. After Japan was defeated, Thailand’s subsequent prime minister said the previous government didn’t get a valid declaration of war and the previous prime ministers unilateral declaration was null and void. The Office of Alien Property considered Thailand enemy-occupied instead of an enemy power so it was delisted in 1946 and eligible to get its property back.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands was listed in 1940 to prevent its assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany. The Netherlands was delisted in 1946.

Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

The Soviet Union was sanctioned several times under this act, though for a relatively short period of time. It was first listed in 1941 to prevent assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany and other invading axis powers. The Soviet Union was delisted in 1946. Later it was sanctioned during four brief periods from 1972 to 1976 when other Presidential economic powers lapsed due to not being renewed by Congress during the cold war.

United States

Franklin D. Roosevelt used the Trading with the Enemy Act to shut financial institutions and declare a “bank holiday” to prevent runs on the banks during the Great Depression in 1933. It was also used to outlaw most ownership of gold in an attempt to prop up the gold-backed dollar. The gold ownership ban was lifted by congressional amendment and gold was no longer used to back printed dollars to fix one of the major structural problems that led to the great depression. In 1968 Lyndon Johnson used the law to restrict capital exports. In 1971 Nixon used the TWEA for currency manipulation in an attempt to boost US exports. In 1982 the United States Treasury Department announced the termination of the Presidential Proclamations and executive orders for the emergencies relating to the 1933 Great Depression ending all domestically oriented Trading with the Enemy Act related programmes.

Vietnam

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam was sanctioned in 1975 as a result of the Vietnam War. Trading With the Enemy Act sanctions were lifted in 1994.

Yugoslavia

Yugoslavia was listed in 1941 to prevent assets from being used by the invading Nazi Germany. Yugoslavia was delisted in 1946.

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