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U.S. Eases Export Controls on Drones

Tuesday, July 28, 2020
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The White House announced July 24 that President Trump is unilaterally relaxing U.S. export controls on some unmanned aerial systems after two years of talks with other Missile Technology Control Regime members failed to yield an agreement. The State Department notes that this policy will be applied to all U.S.-origin UAS transfers whether they are subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations or the Export Administration Regulations.

According to a White House statement, the president is invoking the U.S.’ discretion to treat a subset of UAS in MTCR category I that cannot travel faster than 800 kilometers an hour as category II. As such, the U.S. “has determined that it will overcome the MTCR’s strong presumption of denial” for exports of such UAS.

The statement asserted that while the MTCR is critical in slowing proliferation and promoting peace and security, it is “in dire need of modernization as it applies to UAS” because its standards are more than three decades old. “Not only do these outdated standards give an unfair advantage to countries outside of the MTCR and hurt United States industry,” the statement said, “they also hinder our deterrence capability abroad by handicapping our partners and allies with subpar technology.”

According to the statement, U.S. UAS exports continue to be subject to the rigorous review criteria outlined in the UAS export policy, the conventional arms transfer policy, and the Arms Export Control Act as well as the specific nonproliferation criteria identified in the MTCR guidelines. Likewise, approving or denying a UAS sale to any country is a whole-of-government decision and takes into account U.S. national security, nonproliferation, and foreign policy objectives as well as the purchasing country’s ability to responsibly use and safeguard U.S.-origin technology.

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