Obama to Ease Export Controls for Sales to Allies, Locke Says

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
Commerce Secretary Gary Locke speaks during an interview in Washington, D.C. Photographer: David Rogowski/Bloomberg

President Barack Obama will propose easing restrictions on the sale to the closest U.S. allies of technology items that can be used for military purposes, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said.

Reworking those rules is part of Obama’s efforts to spur exports and preserve the U.S.’s role as a research and manufacturing hub, he said. Locke announced plans to ease limits on sales of dual-use items to close allies a year ago, and today said the regulations would be announced this week.

“You will see the president making an announcement any day now,” Locke said in an interview at the Bloomberg office in Washington, when asked about the proposal. “We’ve been raring to go for a year now, and we’ve been working collaboratively.”

The U.S. requires exporters to obtain a license to sell civilian technology, such as aircraft parts and computer hardware, that also can be used for military purposes. The restrictions vary based on U.S. relations with the foreign government, and those rules are administered by the Commerce Department and State Department.

The process of applying for and receiving such licenses slows commerce and harms the competitiveness of American manufacturers, Locke said. He didn’t say which countries would be exempt from export controls, and how the regulations would be structured.

Locke said separately that a summit the Obama administration is hosting with Chinese officials next week will focus on protections of copyrights, increasing sales of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment and improving the market for U.S-made clean energy products in China.

“We need to really focus on breaking down those barriers for U.S. products and services going into China,” he said.

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