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The Forgotten Export Control Regimes: Economic Sanctions, Nuclear

If you follow the export controls reform process, two areas rarely discussed in the public arena are the reform of economic sanctions and nuclear export controls. So when someone takes the time to pen a thoughtful piece on either one, I like to pass it along. A hat tip to Ms. Andrea Viski at the Nuclear Export Controls blog for initially posting about it.

In a CSIS Policy Perspective, Ms. Jodi Lieberman penned an item that is well worth a read on nuclear export controls: “Nonproliferation, Congress, and Nuclear Trade:  Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same.” Lieberman pieces discusses a bill in Congress, H.R. 1280, offered by House Committee Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman, Rep. Ros-Lehtinen that aims to make minor but important updates to nuclear export controls.

H.R. 1280 is a bipartisan measure that includes support from Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), and many other Republicans and Democrats. There is a companion bill in the Senate introduced by Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), S. 109.

In her piece Liberman concludes:

The arguments against H.R. 1280 are familiar ones that deserve close scrutiny. If history is any guide, however, strengthening U.S. nonproliferation law nets the U.S. government, the nonproliferation community, and the world far greater benefit than it does to impede civilian nuclear commerce.

She covers a great deal of history related to prior efforts to create and update the nuclear regulatory regimes and how the arguments – pro and con – to these changes are somewhat the same today as they were then. This, by the way, also happens to be the case with export control reform efforts generally.

As far as reform efforts go, economic sanctions and nuclear export control are the forgotten export control regimes. They are in need of updating just as much as the ITAR and the CCL. In some cases, more so. This is one area where more money and bodies are sorely needed in places such as the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

I agree with Ms. Lieberman’s assessment that a robust nonproliferation law, and export controls generally, are a plus to the process. Indeed, if we establish an export controls system that is the global gold standard adopted by other countries, we can meet both aims of securing our technology and expanding exports. Our customers will appreciate it. And the world safer because of it.

The CSIS Policy Perspective is available for download here.


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