White House releases new USA arms sales policy

Former FBI Director James Comey on 7:30

Former FBI Director James Comey on 7:30

The White House wants to elevate the goal of creating American jobs and boost the USA defense industry when considering weapons exports to foreign nations under a new conventional arms policy unveiled on Thursday.

Trump has pressed foreign governments to buy more USA -made weapons in almost every call he has had with a head of state of major allies, a State Department official said this week. Trump's personal role underscores his determination to make the United States, already dominant in the global weapons trade, an even bigger arms merchant to the world, US officials say, despite concerns from human rights and arms control advocates.

The administration will also consult with industry partners over the next 60 days to streamline the government's strategic advocacy role - to encourage USA officials to do more to help promote foreign arms sales that align with U.S. interests overseas.

The Trump and Obama administrations have already angered rights groups by initiating and finalizing a $100 billion deal with Saudi Arabia, supplying weapons to the country as it leads a coalition that's been bombing Yemen since 2015, killing thousands of civilians.

White House trade advisor Peter Navarro noted in a conference call that "Chinese replicas" of American drone technology are being "deployed on the runways in the Middle East".

Two potential beneficiaries of the rule changes, Textron Inc and Kratos Defense and Security Solutions Inc now market smaller armed drones internationally. "We look forward to further discussions with industry on how best to advance exports while protecting American jobs".

"Partners who acquire American weapons are more capable of fighting alongside us and ultimately more capable of defending themselves with fewer American boots on the ground", he said.

The United States dropped some restrictions Thursday on sales of its advanced drones in order to reinforce the armies of its allies and compete with China on the world arms market.

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Despite the accuracy of missiles guided by drone-mounted lasers, many hundreds and perhaps thousands of civilians have been killed in United States strikes in South Asia, the Middle East and the Horn of Africa.

President Donald Trump has ordered government agencies to expedite and expand arms sales overseas, including easing limits on exports of drones with military capabilities.

Trump previewed plans for a new approach toward weapons sales during an appearance in Florida with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday.

"For too long we have hamstrung ourselves and limited our ability to provide our allies and partners with the defensive capabilities they require, even when in the USA interest".

The State Department typically submits proposed sales for an informal notification period of about three weeks that's followed by a formal, publicly released document that Congress has as long as 30 days to approve.

"Rather than focusing on risks of arms transfers, the policy really focuses on all the potential benefits", according to Rachel Stohl, managing director at the Stimson Center.

Human rights will now carry equal weight alongside other considerations in planned arms sales including the needs of allied nations and the economic loss if the US contractor does not win the sale when decisions are made on whether to approve an arms deal. "We absolutely look at human rights as one of a set of considerations that we look at", she added.