U.S. Export Controls: Is There a New Sheriff in Town?

Export controls have existed in some form since the beginning of civilization. Societies have always had a need to protect their security and allocate limited and strategic resources by enacting export control measures. For example, the exporting of crossbows was prohibited in medieval times as they could give rival fiefdoms a significant military advantage, and the export of gunpowder from China was prohibited in 900 A.D. Export controls are greatly influenced by world events and ever-changing political regimes. Ongoing external conflicts, a new U.S. political administration and the use of increasingly sophisticated technology will drive a more granular focus on cross-border trade involving a deeper cooperation among federal agencies.

U.S. Export Controls History

In 1774, the United States' First Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia and the following December declared the importation of British goods to be illegal. Twelve months later the U.S. Congress outlawed the export of goods to Great Britain, thus establishing the first American export controls. Since then, the United States has imposed export controls for a variety of reasons through legislation such as the Embargo Act, Trading with the Enemy Act, the Neutrality Act and the Export Control Act. In reaction to Japan's occupation of parts of Indo-China in 1940, the U.S. Congress passed the Export Control Act, which forbade the exporting of aircraft parts, chemicals and minerals without a license.