Business groups prod Obama to go further on landmark export policy revamp

As written in the 1960s, the current rules require firms to apply for federal permission to export tens of thousands of products that appear on a pair of federal control lists. Members of Congress, industry groups and the administration agree that the antiquated unnecessarily controls simple nuts, bolts and other items flagged long ago because they could be used to build weapons.

In recent weeks, the State and Commerce departments have begun issuing what will eventually amount to thousands of pages of new regulations to streamline the system.

The rules can’t be finalized soon enough for private sector groups that have long-complained that their export operations are hamstrung by the system.

“We appreciate the enormous amount of work that has gone into this initiative so far, and we look forward to further publication of regulations and notification to Congress because it is only at that point that the work will pay off in terms of enhanced security and greater efficiency for exporters,” the Coalition wrote this week in a letter to President Obama.

The group includes the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Aerospace Industries Association, the National Association of Manufacturers and other major business interests.

In the letter, the group lays out a list of ten suggestions to further modify the current rules. The recommendations include revisions to export license guidelines, additional resources, where needed, to ensure federal government agencies can properly implement the new regulations and a series of technical measures.

The overhaul, announced in Obama’s first year in the White House, involves a multi-phased approach designed to modernize and simplify the system.

First, thousands of less significant military items that don’t warrant the tight controls of the State Department’s U.S. Munitions List would be transferred to a more flexible list at the Commerce Department. Ultimately, the two lists would be merged and overseen by a new export control agency that would be charged with licensing exports and enforcing the new regulations.

“We urge the Administration to push forward and conclude this work by the end of 2013,” the Coalition wrote. “In addition, we have maintained from the beginning that reconciliation of the two lists…should not be considered the final step in the project.”

The additional recommendations would not require congressional action, the group said.