Trump administration considers easing int’l arms sales restrictions – report

A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

The US government is considering relaxing some of its export restrictions on arms sales according to a January 8 report by Reuters.

The report says the Trump administration is looking to take a “whole of government” approach to easing the export restrictions and, rather than focus on the potential human rights issues of international arms sales, plans to give more weight to the economic benefits to American arms manufacturers.

It says the new initiative will comprise all facets of the US defence industry’s product lines, and could be in place as soon as February. As part of the initiative, US embassy staff around the world would be given more freedom to advocate for defence contractors, and to smooth over any bureaucratic hindrances.

The initiative is a reversal of the Obama administration’s often cumbersome process which focussed more on historical and ongoing human rights violations by potential international customers, and may lead to a realignment of the International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITARs) which has been a key US policy governing arms exports since 1976.

A national security analyst told Reuters that easing export restrictions to allow defence contractors to sell more weapons internationally would increase the danger of top-of-the-line US weapons going to governments with poor human rights records or being used by militants.

“This administration has demonstrated from the very beginning that human rights have taken a back seat to economic concerns,” said Rachel Stohl, director of the conventional defense program at the Stimson Center in Washington. “And the short-sightedness of a new arms export policy could have serious long-term implications.”