President Donald Trump plans to open up the sale of certain U.S.-made armed drones to a broader list of countries according to Reuters, ending a practice of selling such drones only to a few close allies. The change will come “as early as this month,” and is the result of a new but long-delayed policy on unmanned military aircraft.
In recent years, the only sales of armed U.S. drones have been to Britain and Italy. The list will now expand to include NATO members, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf partners, and treaty allies like Japan and South Korea, according to Reuters.
Other favored buyers include “key partners” such as India, Singapore and Australia and the 35 nations who signed the Missile Technology Control Regime agreement. This international alliance sets rules for exports on missiles and weaponry.
The reinterpretation of rules by Trump’s aides to sell drones overseas comes from Trump’s “Buy American” initiative to boost jobs and reduce the U.S. trade deficit. Trump wants to capture the market share of armed drones from big suppliers such as Israel and China, but human rights advocates and other critics say the export boost could trigger unnecessary conflicts.
Our favorite export: DEATH.
— BizCoachjkr (@BizCoachjkr) March 20, 2018
An increase in drones sales “could put these weapons in the hands of governments that act irresponsibly with their neighbors and against their own populations,” Jeff Abramson told Reuters. Abramson is a senior fellow with the Arms Control Association, a non-partisan organization focused on the threat of rapid production of global weapons.
America’s use of armed drones has prompted criticism surrounding the deaths of innocent civilians for years. When Former President Barack Obama made changes to clear the way for the sale of armed American-made drones to its allies in early 2015, some commented the sales would allow more states to cause innocent deaths, according to the The Wall Street Journal.
An official from the Trump administration told Reuters the U.S. government is seeking to “minimize the self-inflicted bureaucratic and administrative hurdles to U.S. competitiveness in the global aerospace markets.”
Military drones have become integral to modern warfare. With U.S. models in greatest demand, proponents are saying the policy is a much-needed economic opportunity.
Loosening up exports will help producers such as Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Lockheed Martin, according to Reuters. But some are speculating if the economic boost will be worth the cost of human life if these drones end up in the wrong hands.