The United States and Australia Treaty on Defense Trade Cooperation

By Vaughn, Bruce | DISAM Journal, March 2008 | Go to article overview

The United States and Australia Treaty on Defense Trade Cooperation


Vaughn, Bruce, DISAM Journal


[The following is an expert of the Congressional Research Service Report prepared for members and committees of Congress, Order Code RS22772, December 12, 2007. To view the complete report go the following web site: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RS22772.pdf.]

Summary

The United States and Australia signed a Treaty on Defense Trade Cooperation in September 2007 that would facilitate defense trade and cooperation between the two nations. On the strategic level, the treaty would further develop ties between two very close allies who have fought together in most of America's conflicts, including most recently in Iraq and in Afghanistan. This treaty is proposed at a time when the United States has found few friends that have been willing to work as closely with the United States in its efforts to contain militant anti-Western Islamists as Australia has proven to be. The treaty with Australia needs to be ratified by the U. S. Senate to come into force.

United States and Australia Treaty on Defense Trade Cooperation

Former Prime Minister of Australia John Howard and President George W. Bush signed the U.S.-Australia Treaty on Defense Trade Cooperation in Sydney on September 5, 2007, immediately before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit. Proponents view the treaty as bringing what are already very close allies even closer together by facilitating defense trade between the two states and members of their respective defense industries. However, some are concerned that a treaty approach is not the best way to deal with perceived problems with arms and defense technology export controls.

The Treaty

The treaty would ease restrictions associated with the International Trade in Arms Regulations (ITAR) by creating a comprehensive framework within which most defense trade can be carried out without prior government approval. The trade must support combined U.S. and Australian counterterror operations, U.S. and Australia "research and development, production and support programs," and Australia and U.S. government-only. End-uses in order to be eligible (1) Exports of defense articles outside the community consisting of the two governments and approved companies of the two nations would require U.S. and Australian government approval. Supporters state that the treaty will help the two nations strengthen interoperability between their military forces, help sustain them, and use defense industries in direct support of the armed forces. (2)

Many of the details of how the treaty will operate have yet to be worked out. According to press releases, "under the implementing arrangements that are contemplated by the treaty, our industries will move from the licensing regime under the ITAR, to the more streamlined procedures that will be set forth in these implementing arrangements." (3)

The Australian Perspective

The treaty, which was negotiated under the former Liberal [right of center] government that took office in 1996, would provide Australia with streamlined access to U.S. defense trade. This treaty would simplify U.S. export controls on defense articles to Australia that reportedly, along with U.S. defense industry, has been frustrated with existing restrictions. (4) Australia and the U.S. reportedly approved 2,361 licenses and concluded 312 agreements in 2006. The treaty would also provide Australia with:

* Operational benefits from greater access to U.S. support

* Improvements to military capability development due to earlier access to U.S. data and technology

* Cost and time savings from significant reductions in the number of licenses required for export of defense equipment

* Improved access for Australian companies involved in bidding on U.S. defense requirements, or in supporting U.S. equipment in the Australian Defence Force (ADF) inventory (5)

If passed, the treaty will likely require the enactment of enabling legislation in Australia and as a result will need the support of the newly elected government of Kevin Rudd to come into force. …

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