Locke Addresses Reforming the Export Control System

October 1, 2009. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke gave a speech in Washington DC in which he discussed export controls and the Department of Commerce's (DOC) Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).

He discussed how the current export regime is harming some U.S. companies' ability to compete abroad. He said that the system is in need of reform. He listed a few things that the BIS might do in the short run to ease the burden. And, he said, as DOC officials have been saying for years, "reforming the current system is a high priority for the Obama administration".

But, he said that "Overhauling our export control framework will not happen overnight. Fundamental reform will likely require new statutory authority and action from Congress."

The Congress was working on export control legislation a decade ago. Bills were being drafted and amended. But, the House and Senate substantially dropped these efforts after September 11, 2001.

Gary LockeLocke (at right) stated a purpose of the export control system: "to prevent sensitive items from falling into the hands of those who want to do us harm".

He said that the challenge is to "design a new system that keeps us safer by increasing export control measures on the items and technologies most critical to our national security and freeing American companies from an out-dated set of rules that often prevents them from selling items that are readily available from non-U.S. companies."

He said that there are some things that the DOC and BIS can do. First, "we should consider eliminating certain dual-use export license requirements for allies and partner nations".

Second, he said that "Iíve asked BIS to explore implementing a fast-track process for the review of dual-use export licenses for other key countries that do not pose a significant threat and have a strong history of export control compliance".

He also suggested that the BIS "reduce the number of days it takes to review a license application for certain transactions" and "scour the Export Administration Regulations and de-list those items and technologies that no longer pose a threat to national security".

Locke spoke primarily about export controls, but he also said that he is pursuing "Streamlining our business visa system to make it easier for foreign company executives to travel to the United States" and "Strengthening international intellectual property protections to safeguard American innovators from counterfeiters and pirates who cost our companies as much as $250 billion every year".

Frank Vargo, of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), stated in a release that "The current system, developed during the Cold War, does not serve national security, but does undermine U.S. competitiveness and discourage job creation."

Vargo also wrote that "The NAM is pleased by Commerce Secretary Locke's comments today that the Department will consider eliminating many export licensing requirements for allies and partner nations, and will develop a fast-track system for exports to countries that do not pose significant security threats. These are vitally important first steps in fulfilling the Presidentís commitment to a comprehensive review of export control policies."