Export Controls: Combine Immediate Action, Long-Term Reforms

By April 20, 2010General, Regulations, Technology, Trade

After months of inter-agency meetings and years of talk, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates today is expected to announce the most sweeping changes to the U.S. export control system in years. The National Association of Manufacturers is hopeful his announcement will lead to a system that’s more transparent, predictable and efficient. We have been working with this Administration and previous ones on export control reform and are keenly anticipating Sec. Gates’ speech at the Business Executives for National Security . Early reports suggest that the Administration will announce creation of a single agency.

The NAM neither supports nor opposes creation of a single agency. As stated in the NAM’s Manufacturers’ Blueprint for a 21st Century Export Control Regime, a single agency could represent an important structural change if the culture within the trade control agencies is changed, and if near and medium-term reforms are implemented along the way to a single agency. If the latter is ignored, creation of a single agency will not magically fix the problems that exist in the current system.

Unlike other industry groups, the NAM submitted two sets of recommendations to the Administration on reform — near and medium-term, and fundamental or long-term. We believe the near- and medium-term recommendations are critical to improving the system, addressing immediate national security, the defense industrial base and manufacturing imperatives while also laying a solid foundation for the future.

Fundamental reform is necessary to create a system that will serve the needs of the United States well into the future. The two time frames for action are not mutually exclusive and both are vitally necessary — certainly so if the United States is to achieve President Obama’s goal of doubling exports within five years.

I’ll be tweeting live from the event as the proposals are announced. A modernized system could be great for America’s manufacturers and go a long way toward improving national security, expanding the industrial base and increasing U.S. global competitiveness.

Catherine Robinson is the NAM’s director for high technology trade policy.

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