Biden Administration Proposes Easing Arms Export Regulations for UK and Australia

The Biden administration has proposed changes to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to ease the export of U.S.-made guns and ammunition to civilian markets in the United Kingdom and Australia, aiming to strengthen defense trade and technological cooperation between the three countries. The proposed regulations, part of the AUKUS Trilateral Security Partnership, would create a new exemption for export activities, revise licensing timeframes, and allow intra-company transfers of classified defense articles, with implications for global defense trade and the Indo-Pacific region. This description focuses on the primary topic of the proposed changes to ITAR, the main entities involved (the Biden administration, the UK, and Australia), the context of the AUKUS Trilateral Security Partnership, and the significant actions and implications of the proposed regulations. The description also provides objective and relevant details that will help an AI generate an accurate visual representation of the article's content, such as the countries involved, the type of exports, and the security partnership.

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Bijay Laxmi
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Biden Administration Proposes Easing Arms Export Regulations for UK and Australia

Biden Administration Proposes Easing Arms Export Regulations for UK and Australia

The Biden administration has published new gun export regulations that would significantly alter licensing policies for U.S. companies seeking to export guns and ammunition to civilian markets in the United Kingdom and Australia. The proposed changes to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) aim to ease the export of U.S.-made arms to these close allies, with the public comment period open until May 31 for the UK and June 3 for Australia.

Why this matters: The proposed changes to ITAR have significant implications for global defense trade and technological cooperation, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. By easing export regulations, the U.S. aims to strengthen its alliances with the UK and Australia, potentially shifting the balance of power in the region.

The U.S. State Department's Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) published the proposed rule on May 1, 2024, as part of the AUKUS Trilateral Security Partnership between Australia, the UK, and the U.S. The changes include creating a new exemption for export activities between the three countries, revising timeframes for expedited processing of licenses, and allowing intra-company transfers of classified defense articles to certain dual nationals of Australia or the UK.

The proposed exemption would remove authorization requirements for export activities between designated authorized users within the three countries, subject to certain limitations. "The scope of the proposed rule is evidence of the extremely close relationship among the three countries and the U.S. government's confidence that the recently updated export control systems of Australia and the U.K. will prevent the diversion of the newly decontrolled items to destinations, end uses, and end users of concern," the article states.

However, some critics argue that the new regulations create a bureaucratic nightmare for the lawful U.S. gun industry. Amy Swearer, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, claims that "It's an open secret that the Biden administration disdains lawful civilian gun owners almost as much as it does the lawful gun industry." She argues the rule wrongly blames lawful gun owners for criminal gun trafficking and imposes arbitrary burdens on U.S. companies.

The proposed changes are expected to benefit arms manufacturers and services contractors by allowing them to export their products and services more easily to the UK and Australia. The move will also impact the services sector, as many defense articles come with maintenance and sustainment contracts that can overshadow the cost of the original items.

The State Department expects to implement the AUKUS exemption within 120 days, pending certification to Congress that the UK and Australian export control systems are comparable to U.S. controls. The administration must first provide this certification before the exemption can take effect, aiming to strengthen defense trade and technological cooperation between the U.S. and two of its closest allies in the Indo-Pacific region.

Key Takeaways

  • The Biden administration proposes easing gun export regulations to the UK and Australia.
  • Changes aim to strengthen alliances and defense trade in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • New exemption would remove authorization requirements for export activities between the three countries.
  • Critics argue the rules create a bureaucratic nightmare for the lawful US gun industry.
  • Implementation expected within 120 days, pending certification to Congress.