U.S. export control policy and the Missile Technology Control Regime

by Rachel Schmidt


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The proliferation of ballistic missiles poses a worldwide threat. The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) was created in 1987 to help control the spread of delivery system technology by means of parallel export restrictions among signatory member nations. However, many nations have declined to join the original group of seven signatories; the absence of China, the Soviet Union, and Israel substantially weakens the restraint of technology transfer. Other treaties and organizations overlap and supersede MTCR, resulting in conflict between members and other nations. In this already difficult context, formulation of coherent U.S. policy on export control is further hindered by domestic conflicts among government agencies. The State, Defense, and Commerce departments often disagree over definitions of civilian vs. military applications of technology, as well as over the diplomatic implications of sale or embargo of technology. MTCR is not effective because participation and compliance are voluntary, and there is not adequate common understanding of what constitutes delivery system technology.

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