Select Committee on Defence Third Report


In this report, we examine the UK/US Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty, laid before Parliament on 24 September 2007, which seeks to establish a new framework for arms trade and technology transfer between the US and the UK.

Arms and defence-related technologies cannot be exported from the US without an export licence issued by the US Government. The US and UK Governments and the defence industries in both countries have, since the 1990s, been searching for arrangements to ease the requirements for exports to the UK. The current system is unduly burdensome and time-consuming. It discourages UK/US industrial collaboration. It affects the speed at which equipment can be acquired for UK Forces in operational theatres. It is vital to the interests of both the US and the UK that the system should not prevent our Forces from getting access to the equipment they need to fight effectively alongside their US allies in current and future operations.

The Treaty between the UK and US would remove the requirement to obtain licences for certain categories of arms and technologies for defined purposes. Industry on both sides of the Atlantic firmly supports the Treaty. In principle, the Treaty should meet the Government's objective to deepen and strengthen UK/US cooperation and to provide greater interoperability for UK and US Armed Forces. We therefore support the principles and framework set out in the Treaty.

But the Treaty only provides the framework. The detailed operation will be set out in Implementing Arrangements. When we carried out our inquiry, these were still under negotiation. Still to be finalised are the criteria for membership of the Approved Community, to which arms and technologies could be exported, and the technologies which would be excluded. Provided that these Implementing Arrangements are not drawn too restrictively, excluding substantial goods and technologies or significant parts of the defence industry, we would expect the Treaty to bring benefit to the UK defence industry and to the UK Armed Forces.

Ratification in the US is subject to approval by a two-thirds majority of the Senate. We express confidence that Congressional scrutiny will show that the Treaty is in the US interest, as much as in the interest of the UK.

In the expectation that the UK and the US will agree satisfactory Implementing Arrangements, we support the UK's ratification of the UK/US Defence Trade Cooperation Treaty.

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Prepared 11 December 2007