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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 52, November 2000

US Export Act Reauthorised

On November 13, President Clinton signed a reauthorisation of the 1979 Export Administration Act (EAA) until August 20, 2001. Since the Act lapsed and was superseded by provisional legislation in 1994, the Administration has been asking Congress to draw up replacement legislation involving a significant revision of the EAA' parameters. Congress has remained divided over the extent to which regulations and requirements can be prudently relaxed. A number of arms control advocacy groups and export control specialists have also expressed concern that a too-sweeping revision could damage US non-proliferation efforts. The President issued the following statement to accompany his reauthorisation:

"The EAA is a Cold War statute and its authorities lapsed on August 20, 1994. Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a strong need for a modern export control law that will provide US businesses [with] an updated legal framework in which to operate. This revised Act must recognise the current realities of a fast-paced highly competitive global market and at the same time ensure our national security by controlling the export of sensitive dual-use items that have military and non-military applications. My Administration proposed such a revision back in 1994. Despite several efforts, the Congress has not yet been able to pass a new revised Act. In reauthorising the EAA on a short-term basis, the Congress has taken a small but significant step. Reauthorising the EAA will overcome the legal challenges now being made to the Department of Commerce' continued operation of its export control system under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act after the lapse of the EAA. … While a comprehensive revision of the Export Administration Act is necessary, this reauthorisation of the EAA is a needed short-term step."

Note: the FY 2001 Defense Authorization Act contains a relaxation of requirements concerning the export of high-technology computers. However, signing the Act into law on October 30, President Clinton expressed disappointment at the limited extent of this adaptation: "My Administration has worked hard to modernize our export controls and protect our national security while strengthening the global competitiveness of our high tech companies. Through our efforts, US companies have been allowed to export computers that do not pose a threat to our national security. That is why I asked the Congress to reduce the congressional review period required from 180 days to 30 days before I can adjust the notification for high performance computer exports. Although the bill makes an adjustment that is an improvement from the status quo (60 days, but excluding time when the Congress has adjourned sine die), this notification period is still too long. Neither US national security nor the global competitiveness of US companies will be well served by such delays."

Reports: Statement by the President, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, October 30; Text - Clinton on signing reauthorisation of Export Administration Act, US State Department (Washington File), November 13.

© 2000 The Acronym Institute.