US urged to relax satellite export restrictions

Updated: 2013-01-07 07:41

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)

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The Ministry of Commerce expressed concern after the United States kept a tight rein on the export of satellites and related items to China, and a senior China-US trade expert urged Washington to drop its Cold War mindset and lift the barriers to benefit both countries.

The responses came after US President Barack Obama signed on Thursday the National Defense Authorization Act of the 2013 fiscal year.

The authorization act includes provisions that relax export restrictions but continue to ban the export, re-export or transfer of satellites to China, as well as the launching of US satellites in Chinese territory.

Shen Danyang, the ministry's spokesman, said on Saturday in a statement that China is "deeply disappointed and dissatisfied" with the US action.

"The US has not fulfilled its promise to benefit China in its reform of the export control system and boost exports of high-tech equipment to China," he said.

"In addition, the US rolled out measures to hinder satellite cooperation for civil purposes between the two countries," he said.

China urged the US to meet its commitment, stop acting in a discriminatory manner and soften the restrictions in real terms, which will help bilateral trade and is in line with the two countries' common interests, he said.

According to US media reports, the provisions permit the Obama administration to remove satellites and related equipment from the US State Department's munitions list, which restricts weapons exports to other countries.

However, under the provisions, satellite exports would remain prohibited for launches from China, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Cuba, Syria and Sudan.

"The provision puts China on a list with the DPRK and countries that the US deems as supporting terrorism. It's not in line with US foreign policy concerning China," Zhou Shijian, a senior trade expert and professor at Tsinghua University, said on Sunday.

Currently, the US policy concerning China is to cooperate with China and try to contain it as well. But China is not an enemy of the US, he said.

In addition, the satellite cooperation for civilian purposes is "commercial activity", and barring it is not in line with countries' interests, he said.

Since the US International Traffic in Arms Regulations were expanded in 1999 to include satellites, US satellite manufacturers' share in the global market has fallen significantly, from 73 percent in 1995 to 25 percent in 2005, Zhou cited US media reports as saying.

Before the ban, some countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America preferred using China's satellite launch service for its relatively low costs and high success rate, he said.

But after the ban, as China can no longer launch satellites that use US satellite technologies, some of those countries opted to buy satellites that were manufactured in Europe or China without ITAR-controlled components.

Since 2005, China has made and launched communications satellites for Nigeria, Pakistan and Venezuela, and launched a number of satellites made by European companies for international clients, according to previous media reports.

"Just as Neil Armstrong has described his 'small step' on the moon as 'a big step for mankind', developing the space industry is for the good of the whole mankind," he said.

"Cooperation is needed, not the opposite. The US should drop its Cold War mindset on this matter," he said.

The US has sent signals in recent years that it intends to loosen restrictions on high-tech exports to China and resolve the trade imbalance. But the promises have not been met.

In March 2011, US Ambassador to China Gary Locke said the US will allow 46 of the 141 high-tech items to enter the Chinese market, and some may not need a license.

But Zhou said research showed all of the 46 items are comparatively low-end goods, and that the high-tech goods still cannot be exported to China.

(China Daily 01/07/2013 page2)