Difference Between Sanction and Embargo
By Laura Lee - May 19, 2022

It is common for the government of a country to place restrictions on its travel, or trading activities with the government of another country or specific entities or groups to reach the desired effect, whether economic, political, or social. It could even be more than one country doing the imposing. Many know these restrictions, and some are collectively known as sanctions. Sanctions are commonplace restrictions, but despite their number and the frequency of their occurrence, they tend to not get as much scrutiny as another form of restriction known as an Embargo.

Table Summary

May or may not be trade-related such as in property bans on goods and finances, regulations and standards, or customs duties for imported goods.Is the total or partial prohibition of trade usually the import and export of goods and services
It can be done for humanitarian, political, or diplomatic reasons.It is done for the national interest
Requires relatively minimal deliberation.Takes place after deliberation by the legislature of the country.
It is usually a partial restrictionIt is usually a complete restriction
a barn lock without a key hangs on the gate

Getty Images / Moment / Netrebina Elena


A sanction is a process of putting a barrier to exchanging specific goods and services to limit commerce. Sanctions can be tariffs, regulations, seizing assets, trade embargoes, or quotas. The reasons for a sanction can be political or diplomatic.

An embargo is a commercial restriction imposed by a country’s legislature on another country for the benefit of the country doing the imposing rather than for humanitarian or social purposes. Embargoes are placed on imports, where the embargoed country is unable to import products from the country placing it, or on exports, where the embargoed country is prevented from exporting its products to the country placing the embargo.

Sanction VS Embargo

While sanctions may or may not be trade-related, embargoes are strictly trade-related. In contrast, Embargoes are moved by a country’s legislature, other entities such as the United Nations, the Office of Foreign Assets Control, and the European Union.