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February 09, 2010 

Export Control Reform 2010: Transforming the Legal Architecture of Dual-Use and Defense Trade Controls

While there have been many export control reform proposals issued in the past few months, very few of them have focused on the legal aspects of the U.S. export control regime.

Neena Shenai, an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, has added an interesting perspective to the export control reform debate in her working paper entitled Export Control Reform 2010: Transforming the Legal Architecture of Dual-Use and Defense Trade Controls (available here in PDF format). Ms. Shenai, an attorney, is well-suited to provide this perspective given her experience in the private sector and in government, which includes serving as a law clerk to a judge at the U.S. Court of International Trade, practicing international trade law at a leading law firm and serving as an advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Export Administration at the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security.

The paper offers the thesis that improvements in the export control system’s legal architecture, including administrative procedural safeguards and limited judicial review while also protecting classified information and national security determinations, will improve the workings of the system in general.

Ms. Shenai reaches that conclusion by discussing the existing legal framework of dual-use and defense-related export controls, examining the various shortcomings of the existing export controls legal regime and discussing what can be learned from other U.S. international-related legal regimes that could serve as useful models for reform of the U.S. export control system. The regimes examined include the licensing of nuclear products by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the administration of trade remedy laws, the administration of U.S. customs laws and the treatment of national security information protected from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

The paper then provides a number of general and specific recommendations to improve the legal framework of the export control system, including improvements to the commodity jurisdiction (CJ), commodity classification and licensing processes. For example, the paper advocates having agency decisions provide applicants with detailed information on why licenses were granted or denied, the grounds on how CJ determinations are made and allowing applicants the ability to appeal such decisions to a federal court, preferably the Court of International Trade, given its longstanding history of hearing cases under the U.S. trade laws.

Ms. Shenai concludes by noting that "the recommendations made in this paper, if implemented, would serve to ensure that the U.S. export control laws are administered in a fair, transparent, predictable, and accountable fashion, while simultaneously maintaining national security protections."

It should be noted that this working paper has not yet been finalized and Ms. Shenai welcomes comments and corrections. Information on how to contact Ms. Shenai can be found in the document.

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