Trump wants to sell drones

Aims to re­lax rules so Canada can buy them

Edmonton Journal - - POLITICS - DaviD Pugliese dpugliese@post­ Twit­­pugliese

Even as it is en­gaged in trade dis­putes with Canada, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is mov­ing ahead to re­move bar­ri­ers in the way of a U.S. firm want­ing to sell Amer­ica’s north­ern neigh­bour more than $1 bil­lion worth of armed drones.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump aims to ease re­stric­tions so Amer­i­can weapons can be sold to trusted al­lies and U.S. com­pa­nies and work­ers profit from those deals.

But whether the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment will be keen on such a pur­chase as it faces hard-line U.S. trade pro­tec­tion­ist mea­sures in other ar­eas re­mains to be seen, an­a­lysts say.

The Cana­dian mil­i­tary had pre­vi­ously wanted to buy Preda­tor drones but, ac­cord­ing to De­part­ment of Na­tional De­fence doc­u­ments ob­tained by the Ottawa Cit­i­zen, U.S. se­cu­rity reg­u­la­tions have put such a deal at risk.

The U.S. gov­ern­ment started re­view­ing the re­stric­tions on drone sales to for­eign na­tions sev­eral months ago. It is also look­ing at changes to a mis­sile-con­trol pact that would ease the sale of armed U.S. un­manned air­craft to var­i­ous coun­tries. There are plans to un­veil the new rules by the end of the year.

Reuters re­ported Tues­day that Canada, Bri­tain, Aus­tralia, and New Zealand will be in­cluded in the list of favoured na­tions for which the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would fast-track a sale of drones.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has ap­proved the Cana­dian Forces plan to ac­quire a fleet of armed un­manned aerial ve­hi­cles. That pro­gram is ex­pected to cost more than $1 bil­lion. Royal Cana­dian Air Force spokesman Maj. Scott Spurr has noted the mil­i­tary is still ex­am­in­ing its op­tions on drones. The Cana­dian Forces hopes to have a con­tract in place in 2022.

Trump’s ini­tia­tive on drones is part of his Buy Amer­i­can pol­icy. U.S. drone man­u­fac­tur­ers have been fac­ing com­pe­ti­tion from Is­raeli and Chi­nese de­fence firms and U.S. ex­port reg­u­la­tions have worked against Amer­i­can com­pa­nies.

But that Buy Amer­i­can regime is also seen by some an­a­lysts as be­ing be­hind the pu­n­ish­ing U.S. du­ties that com­pa­nies from other na­tions are now fac­ing.

The U.S. has im­posed a 27-per-cent duty on Cana­dian lum­ber. It has also levied a 300-per-cent duty on Bom­bardier C-Se­ries pas­sen­ger air­craft af­ter a com­plaint by Boe­ing.

Trump has threat­ened to can­cel the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment if a new deal favourable to the U.S. isn’t reached. U.S. NAFTA trade ne­go­tia­tors are push­ing hard-line pro­tec­tion­ist pro­pos­als.

De­fence an­a­lyst Martin Shad­wick said a bil­lion-dol­lar pur­chase of U.S. weaponry could face an up­hill bat­tle if the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues with its hard line against Cana­dian firms. “The cur­rent strained Canada-U.S. trade re­la­tion­ship could start af­fect­ing de­fence pur­chases,” said Shad­wick, who teaches strate­gic stud­ies at York Univer­sity in Toronto.

He noted the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment has ques­tioned fu­ture mil­i­tary pur­chases from Boe­ing fol­low­ing the U.S. du­ties against Bom­bardier. Those du­ties could af­fect more than 2,000 jobs in the U.K. associated with the pro­duc­tion of Bom­bardier C-Se­ries planes.


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