US confident about meeting new deadline for UK, Australia AUKUS exemptions

By Thomson Reuters Apr 23, 2024 | 3:28 AM

By Lewis Jackson

SYDNEY (Reuters) – A top U.S. arms control official said on Tuesday the country was likely, although not guaranteed, to meet a new deadline to finalise trade exemptions for the AUKUS defence project with Australia and Britain.

AUKUS, formed in 2021 to address shared worries about China’s growing power, involves Australia acquiring nuclear-powered attack submarines, and deeper defence cooperation. But the sharing of closely guarded technology is governed by strict U.S. International Trafficking in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

A 120-day deadline to qualify Australia and Britain for exemptions to the regime passed without certification on Saturday. The State Department said last week it expects to finalise the exemptions after a further 120 days or four months.

Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins said on Tuesday industry still needed to be consulted on the changes but the U.S. was likely to meet the new deadline.

“I don’t want to say a guarantee but I can say we feel pretty good based on what we’ve accomplished already and we can probably make the next 120 days,” she said in an online briefing with journalists.

Australia passed new legislation in March which brings it closer to U.S. arms control standards to try to qualify for the exemptions.

The 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) requires President Joe Biden to determine within 120 days of his signing it into law on Dec. 22 whether Australia and Britain have export control regimes “comparable to the United States” and thereby qualify for exemptions to the ITAR regulations.

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson, Editing by Timothy Heritage)