Outgoing United States Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew has warned against the overuse of sanctions saying Washington runs the risk of lessening their impact.
The Secretary of the Treasury is the equivalent of Finance Minister in most countries.
Lew, who has been the Secretary of the Treasury since 2013, says in his exit memo that the United States in its engagement with challenging partners should continue to use tools at its disposal judiciously to maintain pressure on those countries that take aggressive and destabilising actions such as Russia and North Korea.
He says Washington should provide sanctions relief when the targeted malign behaviour changes as with Iran and Burma.
The memo does not mention Zimbabwe at all though it has been under United States sanctions since 2001.
“As we chart new courses with other countries, such as Cuba, we should be mindful of how we can use our economic tools to create the conditions for a changed relationship,” Lew says.
“We must always take care to avoid the overuse of sanctions, particularly our most unilateral tools like secondary sanctions that extend to non-US persons.
“If we overuse these powerful tools, we risk lessening their impact when they are most needed and ultimately threaten our central role in the global financial system.”
It is not yet clear how President-elect Donald Trump’s administration will deal with sanctions.
Though Trump seems to be warming up to Russia, he warned that he will not tolerate “dictators” like President Robert Mugabe and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.
“Mugabe and Museveni must be put on notice that their days are numbered and I am going to arrest them and lock them in prison,” Trump told war veterans in Washington during his election campaign.
“If the past American administrators have failed to stop these two despots, I will personally do it.”