Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

The US Government is to expedite licensing of communications satellite exports to allies in a bid to counter criticism that current rules are costing US companies business.

The initiative is in response to problems caused by US Congress' decision last year to transfer control of commercial satellite exports from the Department of Commerce to the Department of State.

This was the result of a Congressional committee report which concluded, after investigation of the failure of a Chinese Long March booster to launch a US commercial satellite, that China's ballistic missile developments could have benefited from the transfer of US technology .

The State Department plans to expedite the licensing of exports to US allies of commercial satellites, technologies and components. So-called "Bulk" licenses, valid for four years, will cover multiple shipments. This includes data required to respond to bids and to secure satellite insurance. Transactions involving launches in China or Russia will continue to require case-by-case approval.

Speeding up the licensing process will help US companies respond to requests for quotations from customers in NATO nations, Argentina, Australia, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Jordan, New Zealand and South Korea. Previously, bids had often closed before US companies gained approval to respond.

The Commerce Department continues to argue that commercial satellites should be removed entirely from the "munitions list" administered by State. Commerce says the tighter export controls are responsible for a 40% decline in US satellite exports, from $1.06 billion in 1998 to $640 million last year. US companies' share of the market has dropped from 73% to 52%, says Commerce.

Source: Flight International