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Vol. 10 No. 1 | 2023 Edition

Violet Geinger

Plurilateral Controls and a New Export Control Regime are Needed to Make Export Controls More Effective and Less Counterproductive

Kevin Wolf

If the first rule of export control regulation is to define clearly the problem to be solved, the second, with some exceptions, is to ensure that the rule is both effective and not counterproductive. By “effective,” I mean that the rule actually stops or hinders the end users of concern from getting the items at issue from any source. My reference to “not counterproductive” means ensuring that foreign competitors of U.S. companies do not gain outsized advantages in markets to which U.S. firms no longer have access thanks to export controls. The income gained in these instances could allow the foreign competitors to out-innovate, out-compete, or even displace entirely the U.S. company. The exceptions pertain to situations where the U.S. should impose a unilateral control to express objection to and not otherwise support human rights violations or move quickly when the issue to be addressed is urgent, particularly if there is a threat to the warfighter. In both cases, the point remains that the eventual adoption of multilateral or plurilateral controls will make them more effective.


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Kevin Wolf is a partner in the international trade group at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. He is also a nonresident Senior Fellow at Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET). He was the Assistant Secretary for Export Administration at the US Department of Commerce for both terms of the Obama Administration (2010-2017). He has been an export control practitioner and policymaker for 30 years.

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