The day after Trump announced his long-dreaded decision to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, EU members were hammering out measures to try to protect European firms doing business in Iran from US sanctions.

The JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) – as the Iran deal is formally known – was signed between Iran, the US, Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and the EU.

But Trump’s pullout has left international companies doing business in Iran vulnerable to the extraterritoriality of US law, which enables Washington to punish foreign companies operating in Iran if they have business dealings with the US or use dollar transactions.

Europe has long complained about the long arm of US economic jurisdictions, which made it difficult for major European banks and companies to operate in Iran even before the US pullout. Amid uncertainty over Trump’s impending decision, European banks have avoided Iran-related transactions, fearing “the American guillotine” that has severely punished firms evading US sanctions in the past, such as a hefty, almost $9 billion fine slapped on France’s largest bank, BNP Paribas, in 2014 for sanctions evasion.

On Wednesday, those gripes reached a pitch. Slamming the US withdrawal from the Iran deal as “an error”, French Finance Minister Bruno Le Marie complained that it was “not acceptable” for the US to play “economic policeman of the planet”.

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