Trump administration eases drone export standards

In a significant development, the Trump administration on Friday relaxed the standards for exporting drones to friendly countries.

Under the new policy, drones that fly at speeds below 800 km / h are no longer subject to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

"This action, which is in line with the MTCR guidelines, will increase US national security by enhancing the capabilities of its partners and increase economic security by opening up the expanding drone market to US industry," said White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement. declaration.

“This policy change modernizes our approach to implementing our MTCR commitments. This makes it more representative of technological realities, ”Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs Clarke Cooper told reporters on a conference call.

"It helps our allies, it helps our partners – it helps them all meet their urgent national and trade security needs, and it also advances the national security and economic interests of the United States," he said. -he adds.

Mr. Cooper, however, said higher speed systems such as cruise missiles, hypersonic air vehicles and advanced unmanned combat air vehicles are not affected by this review.

The United States remains a committed member of the MTCR and sees it as an important non-proliferation tool to curb the spread of high-end missile technology in countries like North Korea and Iran.

Preventing the use and spread of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems remains a priority for the Trump administration, he said.

At present, only three countries – England, France, and Australia – are allowed to purchase larger armed drones from US manufacturers.

In a statement, the White House said that while the Missile Control Pact is key to slowing proliferation and promoting peace and security, it is in desperate need of modernization as it applies to unmanned aerial systems ( UAS).

In an industry where technology is changing rapidly, the MTCR standards are over three decades old, Ms. McEnany said, adding that not only are these outdated standards giving an unfair advantage to countries outside the MTCR and hurting US industry. .

They also hamper our ability to deter overseas by crippling our partners and allies with below average technology, she asserted.

More than two years of discussions with MTCR partners have failed to reach consensus on this overdue reform, she added.

Lawmakers react

Senator Jim Risch, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said for too long that the international community's restraint on exports of large unmanned aircraft has created an opportunity for the Chinese military to do so. advance its defense technology and industrial base, and build new defense relationships around the world, including with traditional American partners.

“I commend the administration for its strong and years-long diplomatic efforts to modernize the MTCR to account for China's actions. It has become clear, however, that an MTCR member state will inevitably block any consensus within the regime on the changes needed. Therefore, the United States has no choice but to make the policy changes that the administration has outlined today, ”he said.

However, Senator Bob Menendez, a prominent member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, claimed that the Trump administration had once again weakened international export controls through this action.

“It is important to understand that the missile technology control regime initially adopted strict controls on exports of advanced drones at the urging of the United States. Failure to heed this policy now is likely to undermine the credibility and influence of the MTCR in general, which also coordinates international controls over the sale and dissemination of ballistic missiles and dangerous technologies around the world, ”said he declared.

President Donald Trump unilaterally repeals a long-standing arms control agreement because it is inconvenient for his 'all is well' policy to sell dangerous weapons seemingly anywhere to anyone, has alleged Congressman Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"In this case, it's the MTCR, set up by President Reagan, to restrict exports of unmanned aerial vehicles that can carry nuclear weapons. Trump wants to be free to sell drones that can carry heavy warheads, bombs and other explosive devices … more than 300 km, "he alleged.

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