Trump to boost exports of lethal drones to more U.S. allies


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump will soon make it easier to export some types of lethal U.S.-made drones to potentially dozens more allies and partners, according to people familiar with the plan.

Trump is expected to ease rules for such foreign sales under a long-delayed new policy on unmanned military aircraft due to be rolled out as early as this month, the first phase of a broader overhaul of arms export regulations.

U.S. drone manufacturers, facing growing competition overseas especially from Chinese and Israeli rivals who often sell under lighter restrictions, have lobbied hard for the rule changes.

The White House is expected to tout the move as part of Trump’s “Buy American” initiative to create jobs and reduce the U.S. trade deficit.

Human rights and arms control advocates, however, warn it risks fueling violence and instability in regions such as the Middle East and South Asia. An announcement of the new policy has been held up for months amid deliberations on how far to go in unleashing drones exports. That delay prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to write to Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster to press him to expedite the policy shift to avoid losing out on sales to certain countries, an industry source and two U.S officials said.

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