Lockheed Martin backs US-UK defence business treaty

A relaxation on export restrictions that would make it easier for US defence companies to work with UK customers could pave the way for a more liberal regime in other parts of the world, a Lockheed Martin senior executive has said.

Speaking in a briefing on the company’s plans for the future at the Farnborough Air Show, Robert H Trice, Lockheed Martin’s senior vice-president for business development, said he was optimistic about the prospects for the whole sector of the US-UK Defence Cooperation Treaty.

The agreement is intended to permit the export of specific defence equipment and services to the British government and to select British companies without US export licences or other prior approval. It would also ensure the continuation of Britain’s policy of not requiring a licence for export of UK equipment and services to the US.

The State Department processes thousands of export licence requests for the UK every year. Although only around 0.1 per cent are not approved, the process can take months to complete.

The treaty was signed by President Bush and former Prime Minister Tony Blair in June last year but is still awaiting ratification. A similar agreement with Australia is also negotiating bureaucratic hurdles.

“We are the most regulated industry in the world for a reason. We understand that,” Trice admitted. However, he added, as the government becomes comfortable with a less strict system as a result of deals struck with specific countries, a broader change in attitudes could follow.

“Perhaps this would allow a more general level of comfort with doing business in our sector,” he said. “We’re happy people in the US government will see business going on, and that technology that needs to be protected is being protected.”

Lockheed Martin has 1,700 staff based in the UK, which last year accounted for almost 15 per cent of its $6.3bn non-US sales. Recent successes have included a 15-year extension to the contract to operate the UK Atomic Weapons Establishment.

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