U.S. business welcomes Obama export control review

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. high-technology exporters on Friday welcomed President Barack Obama’s decision to undertake a comprehensive review of U.S. export controls rooted in Cold War fears of the former Soviet Union.

“The economic and security challenges our country faces continue to grow more complex, and we must have a modern export control system that protects U.S. technology while allowing us to cooperate and trade with our close allies and partners,” Marion Blakey, president of the Aerospace Industries Association, said in statement.

Many U.S. companies are frustrated by licensing and procedures that limit export sales of commercial high-tech goods that also have military applications. They complain countries such as China can easily buy some of the technology on the open market from other suppliers.

Beijing also has pressed Washington to loosen restrictions, arguing that would help close the U.S. trade deficit with China, which reached a record $268 billion last year.

“The U.S. has one of the most robust export control systems in the world,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Thursday. “But it is rooted in the Cold War era of over 50 years ago and must be updated to address the threats we face today and the changing economic and technological landscape.”

That statement accompanied Obama’s decision to extend the Commerce Department’s emergency authority to continue administering export controls for another year.

The 1979 Export Administration Act expired in 2001 and since then Congress has been unable to agree on reforms to replace the highly technical piece of legislation.

“Export control reviews are frequently announced, occasionally begun, and never completed. The really good news will be when it is finished,” Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, said in a statement.

Representative Howard Berman, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, has already begun a congressional review of U.S. export controls and plans to introduce reform legislation early next year.

Reporting by Doug Palmer; Editing by John O’Callaghan