It is my pleasure to welcome you to the United States and to the Department of Commerce. Your willingness to travel such a long distance for this Exchange demonstrates your strong commitment to enhancing the effectiveness of export controls in your country.
As you know, this Exchange follows two export control cooperation trips by U.S. officials to the United Arab Emirates last year. We hope that these events clearly indicate the importance that the United States places on the bilateral relationship between our countries, in general, and on export control cooperation, in particular.
The events of September 11 have caused a widespread reevaluation of national security policies and practices within the U.S. Government. One important component of this process has been our heightened focus on stemming the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them, as well as the proliferation of advanced conventional weapons. Indeed, with the end of the Cold War, weapons proliferation has become the most significant challenge not only to U.S. national security, but to world stability.
One key element of U.S. nonproliferation policy -- and the one in which the Department of Commerce is most directly involved -- is the use of export controls to deny proliferators and countries of concern (such as Iran and Iraq) access to sensitive dual-use equipment, materials, or technology.
You might think that controls on exports are the antithesis of free trade. Export controls are -- to be sure -- a form of limited government intervention in the marketplace. But rather than viewing export controls as imposing restrictions on the free flow of goods, I would suggest that they be viewed as supporting conditions for a safe and secure global economy -- conditions that are an important ingredient to sustaining free trade. The events of September 11 -- and the concern that the next terrorist attack might involve weapons of mass destruction -- leave no doubt that effective export controls are vital to the preservation of the international trading system. Quite frankly, a terrorist attack involving cargo containers at a major port facility would bring our maritime trade to a halt. Effective export controls are one important means for seeking to prevent such an occurrence.
Given all of this, the international community faces an enormous challenge in devising means to keep sensitive technologies out of the hands of potential adversaries while supporting legitimate international trade. This is especially so because increased economic interaction and advances in information and communications technology have made it easier than ever to transfer sensitive technology and know-how all over the world. To be successful, we must use a wide array of diplomatic, political, economic, and legal tools, and we must work cooperatively with countries, such as the UAE, that share our commitment to responsible trade in strategic items.
In that regard, the United States is working on a national, bilateral, and multilateral level to accomplish our goal of enhancing the effectiveness of export controls.
On the national level, we are working hard to enact a new, comprehensive Export Administration Act that will address the rapid pace of technological change in today’s world and provide the statutory authority to improve our own export control system and enforcement mechanisms. Currently, the Administration is negotiating with the Congress on what we hope will be the final details of this legislation. We are cautiously optimistic that we will have a new Export Administration Act in the next few months.
On a bilateral level, we are continuing to engage in export control cooperation activities with other countries in order to strengthen their export control regimes. And, on a multilateral level, we are working to strengthen the effectiveness of the various export control regimes. In the end, there must be widespread cooperation among exporting and transit countries. Without such cooperation, foreign purchasers denied a critical item by one country often are able to obtain the same item from another country that does not control its exports as stringently. In order to put in place effective export controls that accomplish their intended purpose of denying sensitive items to known or suspected proliferators or terrorists, all countries possessing such items must work together.
One area in particular on which we are focusing in light of September 11 is the illegal diversion of strategic commodities through the world’s major transshipment hubs. The United States places great emphasis on enhancing export controls at major transshipment points so that terrorists and countries of concern do not take advantage of lax controls to acquire sensitive items and technologies for weapons programs or terrorist activities. Our goal, therefore, is to encourage the governments of the world’s major transshipment hubs -- especially those proximate to countries of concern -- to establish procedures for examining cargo, to administer licensing requirements that meet the standards of the multilateral regimes, and to share data and cooperate on enforcement and interdiction efforts in order to prevent illegal diversion of sensitive items and technologies.
We appreciate that the UAE supports the set of international "Best Practices" for transshipment export controls that was developed at the San Diego transshipment conference two years ago. We believe, however, that more can and must be done. We are continuing to develop within the U.S. Government proposals on how we can further work together with transshipment countries, including proposals for data collection and sharing. We look forward in the weeks and months ahead to discussing these proposals with you and other transshipment countries, and cooperating to ensure effective, efficient, and secure operations at transshipment ports.
As a result of the discussions that our two countries will have this week, we hope that we can begin to develop together a concrete agenda or roadmap for future export control cooperation. After having the opportunity to learn more from you about your current system and requirements, we hope to put forward a number of suggestions for your consideration, including practical programs and workshops that may be of benefit, as well as other technical exchanges and cooperative activities. As two countries fully committed to cooperating to enhance the effectiveness of export controls and decrease the threat of weapons proliferation, I believe that we both will benefit from this week’s program.
Thank you very much again for traveling to Washington, D.C. and joining us for this important Exchange.