This article is about economics. For other uses, see Embargo (disambiguation).

An embargo (from the Spanish embargo, meaning hindrance, obstruction, etc. in a general sense, a trading ban in trade terminology and literally "distraint" in juridic parlance) is the partial or complete prohibition of commerce and trade with a particular country or a group of countries.[1] Embargoes are considered strong diplomatic measures imposed in an effort, by the imposing country, to elicit a given national-interest result from the country on which it is imposed. Embargoes are similar to economic sanctions and are generally considered legal barriers to trade, not to be confused with blockades, which are often considered to be acts of war.[2]

Embargoes can mean limiting or banning export or import, creating quotas for quantity, imposing special tolls, taxes, banning freight or transport vehicles, freezing or seizing freights, assets, bank accounts, limiting the transport of particular technologies or products (high-tech) for example CoCom during the cold-war.[3]

In response to embargoes, an independent economy or autarky often develops in an area subjected to heavy embargo. Effectiveness of embargoes is thus in proportion to the extent and degree of international participation.


Companies must be aware of embargoes that apply to the intended export destination.[4] Embargo check is difficult for both importers and exporters to follow. Before exporting or importing to other countries, firstly, they must be aware of embargoes. Subsequently, they need to make sure that they are not dealing with embargoed countries by checking those related regulations, and finally they probably need a license in order to ensure a smooth export or import business. Sometimes the situation becomes even more complicated with the changing of politics of a country. Embargoes keep changing. In the past, many companies relied on spreadsheets and manual process to keep track of compliance issues related to incoming and outgoing shipments, which takes risks of these days help companies to be fully compliant on such regulations even if they are changing on a regular basis. If an embargo situation exists, the software blocks the transaction for further processing.


An undersupplied U.S. gasoline station, closed during the oil embargo in 1973

The Embargo of 1807 was a series of laws passed by the U.S. Congress 1806–1808, during the second term of President Thomas Jefferson.[5] Britain and France were engaged in a major war; the U.S. wanted to remain neutral and trade with both sides, but neither side wanted the other to have the American supplies.[6] The American national-interest goal was to use the new laws to avoid war and force that country to respect American rights.[7]

One of the most comprehensive attempts at an embargo happened during the Napoleonic Wars. In an attempt to cripple the United Kingdom economically, the Continental System – which forbade European nations from trading with the UK – was created. In practice it was not completely enforceable and was as harmful if not more so to the nations involved than to the British.[8]

The United States imposed an embargo on Cuba on February 7, 1962.[9] Referred to by Cuba as "el bloqueo" (the blockade),[10] the US embargo on Cuba remains one of the longest-standing embargoes.[11] The embargo was embraced by few of the United States' allies and apparently has done little to affect Cuban policies over the years.[12] Nonetheless, while taking some steps to allow limited economic exchanges with Cuba, President Barack Obama reaffirmed the policy, stating that without improved human rights and freedoms by Cuba's current government, the embargo remains "in the national interest of the United States."[13]

In 1973–1974, Arab nations imposed an oil embargo against the United States and other industrialized nations that supported Israel in the Yom Kippur War. The results included a sharp rise in oil prices and OPEC revenues, an emergency period of energy rationing, a global economic recession, large-scale conservation efforts, and long-lasting shifts toward natural gas, ethanol, nuclear and other alternative energy sources.[14][15]

In effort to punish South Africa for its policies of apartheid, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a voluntary international oil embargo against South Africa on November 20, 1987; that embargo had the support of 130 countries.[16]

List of countries under embargo

Former trade embargoes

See also

Look up embargo in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.


  1. University of California, Irvine (April 8, 2013). "Trade Embargoes Summary". darwin.bio.uci.edu.
  2. "Blockade as Act of War". Crimes of War Project. Retrieved 2012-07-01.
  3. Palánkai, Tibor. "Investor-partner Business dictionary".
  4. "Do I need an export licence?". www.gov.uk. 3 August 2012. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  5. University of Houston (2013). "The Embargo of 1807". digitalhistory.uh.edu.
  6. Aaron Snyder; Jeffrey Herbener (December 15, 2004). "The Embargo of 1807 Grove City College Grove City, Pennsylvania" (PDF). gcc.edu. Grove City College.
  7. "Embargo of 1807". monticello.org. April 8, 2013.
  8. "Continental System Napoleon British Embargo Napoleon's 1812".
  9. National Archives and Records Administration. "Proclamation 3447--Embargo on all trade with Cuba". archives.gov.
  10. Elizabeth Flock (February 7, 2012). "Cuba trade embargo turns 50: Still no rum or cigars, though some freedom in travel". washingtonpost.com.
  11. Eric Weiner (October 15, 2007). "Officially Sanctioned: A Guide to the U.S. Blacklist". npr.org.
  12. Daniel Hanson; Dayne Batten; Harrison Ealey (January 16, 2013). "It's Time For The U.S. To End Its Senseless Embargo Of Cuba". forbes.com.
  13. Uri Friedman. "Obama Quietly Renews U.S. Embargo on Cuba". The Atlantic.
  14. Maugeri, Leonardo (2006). The Age of Oil. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 112–116.
  15. "Energy Crisis (1970s)". The History Channel. 2010.
  16. "Oil Embargo against Apartheid South Africa on richardknight.com".
  17. Leo Cendrowicz (February 10, 2010). "Should Europe Lift Its Arms Embargo on China?". Time.
  18. United States Department of the Treasury. "What You Need To Know About U.S. Economic Sanctions" (PDF). treasury.gov.
  19. Josh Levs (January 23, 2012). "A summary of sanctions against Iran". cnn.com.
  20. "Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea)". Department for Business Innovation and Skills. Archived from the original on 9 June 2009. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  21. "Australia bans all live cattle exports to Indonesia". BBC News. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  22. "Syria sanctions". BBC News. 27 November 2011.
  23. "Russia announces 'full embargo' on most food from US, EU". Deutsche Welle. 7 August 2014.
  24. "Russia expands food imports embargo to non-EU states". English Radio. 13 August 2015. Retrieved 10 November 2015.
  25. Cockburn, Patrick (February 4, 1994). "US finally ends Vietnam embargo". The Independent. London.
  26. 1 2 Pakistan and India UK nuclear exports restrictions
  27. Lydia Polgreen (April 2, 2012). "Mali Coup Leaders Suffer Sanctions and Loss of Timbuktu". nytimes.com.
  28. "Kosovo imposes embargo on Serbia". The Sofia Echo. 21 July 2011. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  29. "Georgia Doubles Wine Exports as Russian Market Reopens". RIA Novosti. 16 December 2013.
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