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Decades ago, Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote Secrecy: The American Experience about the high cost in real security of the routine abuse of classification systems for the real end of organizational prestige and keeping agency analysis out of critical review and oversight. President Trump just blew the whistle and threw a flag on a similar game being run by government agencies, claiming all manner of advanced American technology must be labeled “national security” sensitive and strictly restricted in export. President Trump points out that this actually puts our businesses and workers at a disadvantage, giving up markets to foreign competitors who can produce their own advanced products.
President Trump primed the pump with a tweet, than elaborated in one of his nearly daily press conferences, walking to or from Air Force One or Marine One. Here is the relevant excerpt, of remarks by President Trump, followed by the video:
Q You tweeted this morning about China and wanting U.S. companies to be able to —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q — sell jet parts.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q Are you — are you not concerned about national security on that?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m very concerned about national security. Number one, I’m concerned about national security. Nobody has done a better job with national security than me. You take a look at what’s going on: We’ve done a great job on national security. A lot of countries are a lot different now than they were when I started.
But I will say that we’re not going to be sacrificing our companies, for all of the growth and everything else — they’re ready, they’re exploding; they’re doing so well — by using a fake term of national security. It’s got to be real national security. And I think people were getting carried away with it.
So I want our companies to be treated — I want our companies to be allowed to do business. I mean, things are put on my desk that have nothing to do with national security, including with chipmakers and various others. So we’re going to give it up. And what will happen: They’ll make those chips in a different country or they’ll make them in China or someplace else.
So, national security is very important. I’ve been very tough on Huawei, but that doesn’t mean we have to be tough on everybody that does something. We want to be able to sell all of this incredible technology. We’re number one in the world. We want to be able to sell to other countries.
This is decidedly not isolationist. President Trump realizes that bringing manufacturing business and jobs back to our shores includes getting access to markets for the goods produced. Letting a bureaucracy, legislator, or lobbying group put up domestic obstacles is as bad as foreign governments creating barriers to entry. So, “national security” will no longer be a magic phase that freezes export opportunities by mere incantation.
Indeed, President Trump is reminding us that economic strength is a component of national security, as he has insisted since the publication of his National Security Strategy. From the National Security Strategy summary:
II. PROMOTE AMERICAN PROSPERITY: A strong economy protects the American people, supports our way of life, and sustains American power.
We will rejuvenate the American economy for the benefit of American workers and companies, which is necessary to restore our national power.
America will no longer tolerate chronic trade abuses and will pursue free, fair, and reciprocal economic relationships.
To succeed in this 21st century geopolitical competition, America must lead in research, technology, and innovation. We will protect our national security innovation base from those who steal our intellectual property and unfairly exploit the innovation of free societies.
America will use its energy dominance to ensure international markets remain open, and that the benefits of diversification and energy access promote economic and national security.
Ah, but what about that stealing passage? The new trade deal with China is supposed to address the long tolerated intellectual property theft. So, to the extent that there are property protections in force, there is a lower risk in exporting parts that reveal advanced ideas. We may be seeing a shift in balance,again, between supposedly protecting advanced technologies* and protecting economic strength.
* Yes, I have made and will make the other argument about military exports. Funny how we have the full military industrial complex lined up to export our equipment. As soon as the Super Fighter sales go through, we get the next round of catastrophizing from the same crew. We must invest in the new Super Duper Fighter because our potential competitors (the rest of the world) now have the Super Fighter and local derivations! This too has some truth in it.Published in