The USA’s tough ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations) rules currently applies to every nut and bolt on a broadcasting satellite, and has meant that US manufacturers cannot sell satellites or components that would be used on foreign, non-US, launchers or in some cases operated by certain foreign nations. Satellites, under the 1998 regulations, were simply treated as weapons. The regulations are now to be repealed, thereby giving the president extra discretion in what is, and what is not, dangerous as far as an export licence is concerned.
The new regulations (now known as the National Defense Authorisation Act) are expected to be signed into law in the next few days and come into force in 2013. “This provision will restore the President’s ability to move satellites and related items from the US Munitions List to the dual-use Commerce Control List, while prohibiting the export of such items to China, North Korea and States Sponsors of Terrorism, including Syria and Iran,” Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
“Treating commercial satellites and components as if they were lethal weapons, regardless of whether they’re going to friend or foe, has gravely harmed US space manufacturers,” Berman added. “US national security depends upon these manufacturers for our own defense needs; if they can’t compete in the international marketplace due to onerous restrictions, they can’t innovate and cannot survive.”