In the past few years the US has implemented or rejected certain international policies which other countries have been critical of. The first that come to mind are:

  1. The Paris climate accord - the US is the only country that has rejected the global pact.
  2. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action - the other signatories were all critical of the decision to withdraw.

I'm wondering if there've been any attempts by the rest of the world to sanction the US for its behavior.

  • 5
    Does the Cold War era count? Some trade restrictions were reciprocated.
    – o.m.
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 4:26
  • 1
    @o.m. only thinking about the past few years.
    – Allure
    Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 4:31
  • 2
    Of course there are an array of pressures playing out all the time, but most actions are not overt, given the US' own power. Can you specify a time-period, and perhaps what types of sanctions you are thinking about? Official sanctions? Non-tariff barriers? Punitive economic actions? Diplomatic pressures? This is a very broad field. Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 13:18
  • 3
    Are import taxes like the ones between China and the US also considered sanctions? Commented Jul 17, 2019 at 18:35
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    @John, some human rights violations are very much in the eye of the beholder. Is Saudi Arabia really less restrictive than Iran when it comes to human rights?
    – o.m.
    Commented Jul 18, 2019 at 5:02

3 Answers 3


For the proximate causes you state? No. Sanctions are very serious escalation moves between states and very few, perhaps no developed country, would risk an escalating sanction regime with the US and certainly not over global warming or the US pulling out of the JCPA.

For example, Russia imposed sanctions on the US, Canada, and Australia in response to sanctions Russia received after the Ukraine war in 2014.

Also China has sanctioned some US firms based upon defense spending/business in Taiwan in July of 2019.

And most recently Iran imposed sanctions on U.S. National Security Adviser John R. Bolton, U.S. Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin, and American senator Ted Cruz, from travelling to Iran.

  • 2
    Don't forget North Korea also has sanctions on the US as well as a travel ban for US citizens.
    – Wes Sayeed
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 20:02

According to Wikipedia sanctions are:

Coercive measures adopted by a country or a group of countries against another state or individual(s) in order to elicit a change in their behavior.

An example, which may fit under the above definition, is the 2011 EU export ban for substances, which can be used as a lethal injection drug for carrying out the death penalty.

I would argue we may count this as a sanction, because:

  • It clearly is a politically motivated move to elicit a change in behavior.
  • While as a global export ban not solely limited to the US, it was at that time widely perceived to explicitly target the US (see linked press articles).
  • It also seemed to have been at least partially effective in achieving its goal, as it caused delays and major disturbances in carrying out the death penalty and to a certain extent also caused a new public debate in the US. So it definitely doesn't fall in the same category of symbolic/retaliatory sanctions as "Iran's sanctions against the US".

Some further reading:

America is running out of lethal injection drugs because of a European embargo to end the death penalty - The Independent, 13 March 2015

Can Europe End the Death Penalty in America? - The Atlantic, 18 February 2014

  • 2
    +1 while a tactical export ban will have no real economic effect, it does highlight the issue politically. Interesting take.
    – user9790
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 11:21
  • I don't think it qualifies, it's not primarily about eliciting a change of behavior (and it didn't). It's about depriving a country from the material resources needed to carry out a certain course of action (and that's how it was effective). Nobody in the US thought "this is hurting us, let's stop applying the death penalty to appease the Europeans”, they just didn't have the necessary drugs.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 20:35
  • @Relaxed Attempting to prevent certain actions via deprivation of the necessary resources to do so is indeed a possible function of a sanction; arms embargos are an example. And while it did not change the behaviour of sentencing people to death, it did change the behaviour of actually killing them in that it has at least delayed executions, according to the article from The Independent.
    – cjs
    Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 7:40
  • @cjs Maybe but that's not what the definition quoted in this answer implies. That wasn't the point of my comment but this definition makes sense to me. Historically, there are also many embargos or blocades designed to weaken a country or city from Napoléon's continental system to siege tactics or restrictions on export of certain technologies. The goal is to have a direct and material impact. That seems different from modern sanctions.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 9:39

In practice, it is very difficult for western-style democracies to impose sanctions on each other. First and foremost, they are all close allies, and secondly their economies are so intertwined. When disagreements arise over policy decisions, they usually take the form of import bans or tariffs. For example, Canada and Japan (have/had?) import bans on US beef and dairy products. Some European countries (notably France) ban imports of genetically modified corn from the US. The US has threatened tariffs on Mexico over immigration policy. That sort of thing.

When it comes to non-friendly countries, they sanction each other all the time. China has sanctions against some US technology firms over the sale of defense technology to Taiwan. North Korea has blanket sanctions on the US including a travel ban for US citizens. Iran and Russia similarly have sanctions against the US.

The difference is that the countries sanctioning each other usually have reciprocal animosity, and western-style democracies have much larger economies that are not as disaffected by sanctions being imposed on them. The net result is that sanctions are not an effective tool against them. And with the US in particular, it is the world's largest economy by a pretty wide margin, so a country cutting itself off from that does so mostly at their own expense.

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