“We continue to count on the valuable contributions of the Arms Control Association.”

– President Joe Biden
June 2, 2022
Rules for U.S.-Swedish Arms Trade, Ventures Relaxed
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Wade Boese

On June 14, the White House announced that Sweden, and therefore its arms companies, would be permitted to join a select group of countries that enjoy an expedited, relaxed, and simplified process for purchasing weapons from or participating in joint ventures with U.S. arms companies.

Last May, the Clinton administration unveiled 17 initiatives collectively referred to as the Defense Trade Security Initiative (DTSI) that, among other things, cut, consolidated, or sped up export licensing requirements for U.S. arms companies and their customers or partners in NATO, Japan, and Australia. (See ACT, June 2000.) Sweden will now be able to take advantage of the initiative, which was welcomed with open arms by U.S. arms manufacturers, who had argued that onerous U.S. export laws were costing them business.

The White House announcement, made while President George W. Bush was in Sweden for a summit meeting between the United States and the European Union, noted that Sweden is “one of six major European producers of aerospace and defense items.” During U.S. fiscal years 1996-1999, the U.S. government approved more than $1.3 billion in commercial licenses for exports of arms and military equipment to Sweden. (Countries can buy U.S. weaponry either through the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales program or directly from a U.S. company in a commercial deal. DTSI applies largely to commercial deals.)

Also under the rubric of DTSI, Washington resumed negotiations with Britain and Australia in mid-May to exempt selected companies in those countries from having to obtain licenses for unclassified U.S. weapons or services. The negotiations, which are not expected to be concluded anytime soon, had been put on hold when the Bush administration took office. At this time, only Britain and Australia have been singled out for this general license exemption (in addition to Canada, which was exempted before DTSI’s inception) because the United States believes their export control systems are closest to U.S. standards.