Obama propose to cut controls on arms export, how will it affect the #armstreaty?
March 21 2011, 5:01 PM by Øistein Thorsen
As part of the Obama Administration’s “Export Control Reform” (ECR)
initiative, the U.S. government has proposed an amendment that will
exempt U.S. companies from obtaining government approval for exporting
replacement parts and components in certain situations. This could
have the effect of narrowing the scope of the Arms Trade Treaty
currently being negotiated at the UN.
By Colby Goodman; also published at https://armstradeinsider.com
According to the proposed rule, the “exemption applies only to
exporters specifically identified in a previously approved
authorization to export the end-item in question. It would not apply
to upgrades of capabilities of the original end-item.”
While this rule calls into question the U.S. government’s
effectiveness in stopping replacement parts going to a government,
which suddenly becomes abusive, it is unclear whether it will affect
efforts by the U.S. Administration to negotiate a strong International
Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) within the United Nations. A Chairman’s draft
text sets out a treaty that will call on governments to approve all
exports of parts and components related to weapons on a case-by-case
basis, among other aspects. However, the Administration’s proposed
narrowing of the definition “specially designed” for military purposes
in a different proposed rule released a couple of months ago, also
part of the Administration’s ECR, is possibly more worrying on two
accounts. According to this rule, if a defense article is not “used
exclusively or predominantly in or with a defense article,” (see part
(h)) U.S. companies would not need to obtain a license from the U.S.
Department of State to export it.
This proposed redefining of “specially designed” to mean more
exclusively designed appears to go against a
U.S. court ruling, which held that just because an item can be used
for civilian purposes doesn’t mean when combined with a defense
article it couldn’t cause a serious threat to U.S. national security
and thus need to be controlled. Such an interpretation also seems to
differ from arms control agreements the U.S. government has signed
onto such as the Waasenaar Arrangement, which uses only “specially
As a result of this proposed redefinition, if implemented, U.S.
companies could presumably could export items such as a HIP control
panel without government approval. When carbon material is exposed to
a HIP, for example, it can become suitable for use in rocket
components, including ballistic missiles with nuclear capability,
according to U.S. court documents. Foreign allies with less rigorous
and comprehensive arms export controls could also relax their controls
in similar ways by following U.S. moves bilaterally. In addition, the
U.S. government could now become supportive of a narrowing of such a
definition in negotiations for an Arms Trade Treaty.