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February 12, 2009 

A New Era For Export Controls?

The February edition of the American Machinist magazine contains an opinion piece on the challenges the Obama Administration faces in the area of export controls and international technology transfers. The article was written by Paul Freedenberg, Vice President of Government Relations of the Association of Manufacturing Technology. Mr. Freedenberg served as the Commerce Department's first Under Secretary for Export Administration.

Freedenberg writes:

Study after study over the past two decades has called for reform of the U.S. export control structure. Yet it still remains the slowest, the least predictable, and the most restrictive export control system in the world.

But many in our industry, particularly those who make items such as five-axis machine tools and carbon fiber manufacturing equipment, will say that the U.S. policy is one of unilateral control, denying or delaying for inordinate amounts of time, export licenses for their products.

This has seriously undermined our reputation for reliability, not only with regard to controlled products. It has hurt our reputation in non-controlled industrial products as well.

He concludes by noting that:

With a new Administration, it is time for a re-evaluation of the costs and benefits of our export control policy. It is apparent that we are setting an example of self restraint that none of allies are willing to follow.

A new Commerce Department “foreign availability” study of five-axis machine tools is due to be released soon. It is likely to make the points that I am making here. The Obama Administration ought to use it as a guide for redesigning the export control structure to fit the 21st Century.

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