The Hill reports that House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) may be “pressing ahead with an overhaul of measures intended to safeguard the export of sensitive technologies.” Interesting article as far as political statements, but little on substance. Labeling export control laws a “Cold War relic” has become a cliché used as a clarion call to spur the Hill to do something, anything. Changes are warranted to bring some of the laws and regulations up-to-date, but comprehensive reform in an area of law that few people in this town really understand can make the challenges by industry and affected agencies much more daunting than they are today.
In other news, President Barack Obama yesterday announced his intent to nominate attorney Eric Hirschhorn to be the Under Secretary of the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). Hirschhorn is currently a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Winston & Strawn LLP. Here is a thought (see prior paragraph), wait until Hirschhorn been confirmed by the Senate to ensure that a key player in export controls has a seat at the export controls reform table.
More on reform of U.S. export controls laws and regulations … In a recent speech to the Trade North America Conference in Michigan, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Dennis Hightower reminded conference attendees that “Commerce has already begun to implement programs that will reduce the export licensing burden on U.S. companies. But we have also instructed Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security to initiate a review of our export controls. The review will focus on improving the system by targeting controls at those who seek to do us harm, while ensuring that the traditional control lists keep pace with technological developments. Most important, we’ve asked the Bureau to consider new ways to make the system more responsive, transparent, and efficient to reflect the realities of the global marketplace.”
A blogger who attended DSEi 2009 penned a two-part story on his visit. He discusses how the Deenside Camlock baton “can achieve compliance through one or two hits, it looks better and causes less injury.” Alright, bad joke.
On the economic sanctions front, earlier this week the United States “imposed sanctions against two North Korean entities said to be involved in that country’s missile and nuclear programs. The action came as the U.S. envoy for North Korean policy completed a round of talks in Asia on ways to get Pyongyang to return to nuclear negotiations.”
Meanwhile, there is finally some traction, or at least people thinking about imposing targeted sanctions on rogue governments in the Western Hemisphere supporting state sponsors of terrorism such as Cuba and Iran. Venezuela and Ecuador should be on the short list. The Obama Administration has been quick to punish countries, indeed U.S. allies, in the region that are struggling with democracy and rule of law. Honduras comes to mind. It should refocus and target troublemakers and regional destabilizers.
As Orbitz officials lobby the Congress to ease travel restrictions to Cuba, they should take a look at what happens to people in Cuba when they oppose the Cuban regime. An ordinary man on the street became an Internet sensation when he was captured on camera pleading for something to eat. The video went viral on the web. This week, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Marcos was sentence by Cuba’s political court to two years in jail for complaining about food and the government.
Finally, Clif Burns penned an item on the revised Cuba sanctions regulations issued by the Obama Administration earlier this week. No fan of the easing of sanctions on state sponsor of terrorism Cuba, my only hope is that cooler heads will prevail and that targeted measures are undertaken to enforce the other sanctions on Cuba. The Bush Administration’s easing of sanctions on North Korea did not work. It will not work with Iran. It will not work with Cuba.