The Donald Trump administration is proposing a major deregulation of firearms exports, the US-based Security Assistance Monitor reported on Monday.
The proposed reform will shift the responsibility for reviewing export licenses from the State Department to the Commerce Department. Moreover, the Trump administration could end the requirement demanding an approval of any weapon deal with a client from a non-NATO member state.
Unlike the State Department, the Commerce Department will not limit exports for political reasons. Export licenses may no longer be linked to an assessment that precludes the possibility that the country of destination is linked to human rights violations or poses strategic challenges, like China.
Moreover, the Commerce Department cannot monitor arms exports across the world, picking up trafficking patterns. That means that arms smuggling will be facilitated as neither the Congress nor public opinion will have the information required to scrutinize firearms exports. More so since companies trading firearms will no longer need to register with the US government. And these very companies will also be able to use license exceptions to export weapons without US government approval.
In providing firearms trade with a stealth quality, the fear is that US-made weapons could make their way to rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and strategic foes. Moreover, Washington is compromising its leadership role in enforcing a multilateral regime of responsible firearm exports. The fear is now that this could trigger a race to the bottom between weapon exporters.