Gates To Outline Export Reform Plan by April

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will outline in the coming weeks a plan to reform the U.S. export control system that governs the sale of sensitive technologies overseas, including U.S. commercial communications satellites, according to U.S. President Barack Obama.

During a March 11 speech at an annual Export-Import Bank conference here, Obama said his administration had completed a sweeping assessment of current export laws and regulations governing the sale of sensitive technologies to foreign countries, and that Gates would unveil subsequent reforms before the end of March.

“We’ve conducted a broad review of the export control system, and Secretary Gates will outline our reform proposal within the next couple weeks,” Obama said in remarks prepared for a speech delivered to some 1,000 U.S. exporters attending the annual conference.

In August, the White House formed an interagency working group to review existing U.S. export controls. Commercial communications satellites, regardless of their complexity or sensitivity, have been subjected to the most restrictive set of rules, the International Traffic in Arms Regulations administered by the U.S. Department of State, since a 1999 crackdown.

Obama’s push to reform high-tech export laws and regulations is part of a broad-brush plan to promote U.S. trade with foreign consumers that he says will double U.S. exports over the next five years and support 2 million jobs in |America.

Earlier in the day, a senior administration official speaking on background to reporters during a telephone conference call said Gates would include satellite export control reform in his forthcoming proposal.

“[Satellite export reform] is part of the broader export control reform effort that the president will mention today and that Secretary Gates will be laying out more details of in the coming weeks,” the official said in response to a question.

In his prepared remarks, Obama said his administration is already prepared to take two specific steps to address export control reform. One entails streamlining the process companies must go through to sell products with encryption capabilities overseas, including cell phones and network storage devices.

Currently, exports of such products require a technical review that can take between one and two months, a process Obama says puts companies at a disadvantage versus foreign competitors. Obama said his administration will create a “new one-time online process” that will shorten the review time “from 30 days to 30 minutes, making it quicker and easier for our businesses to compete while meeting our national security requirements.”

Obama said his administration also plans to eliminate unnecessary obstacles to exporting products to companies employing people who claim citizenship in more than one country.

”Currently, our exporters and foreign consumers of these goods have to comply with two different, conflicting sets of standards,” he said. “They’re running on two tracks, when they could be running on one. So we’re moving toward harmonizing those standards, making it easier for American and foreign companies to comply with our requirements without diminishing our security.”

In addition, Obama announced plans to revive the President’s Export Council, a private-sector advisory panel to be led by Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney and Xerox Chief Executive Ursula Burns.