First of all, I can't believe I totally scooped the ExportLawBlog on this story. Clif Burns runs a tight ship over there, so I'm assuming this is the one and only time I will beat him to an export control story.
What is left for an administration that has secretly signed and negotiated a treaty with India that punches a huge hole in our nuclear export control regime and another that punches a hole in defense export procedures for Great Britain? Go for a hat trick by steathly negotiating and signing a similar arms trade treaty with Australia!
In a very low-profile meeting on September 5th, President Bush and long-serving Australian Prime Minister John Howard did just that. The State Department issued a fact sheet on the subject that is pretty light on the details, but I would bet that the Aussies are getting the same deal with gave the Brits a few months ago.
Both Bush and Howard mentioned the treaty at their 'joint press availability' that day. Howard's statement danced around the details and as usual, Bush's statement was so inarticulate that he didn't need to do the same.
Frankly, I am a little surprised by this latest defense trade treaty on two accounts. Some of the folks in the defense cooperation community of the Pentagon were at least aware of the British DTCT a few months before it was signed. The Australian treaty, on the other hand, came as a complete surprise.
Moreover, I am surprised that the Bush administration signed a second DTCT before securing the first one. They have no conception of how the Senate will react when the first DTCT comes up for Congressional review. It is also my understanding that the U.S.-UK implementing arrangements are still being hammered out between State, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the British Ministry of Defence.
Bringing the Aussies to the table right now is probably going to spread our already over-tasked U.s. negotiators out even more -- and I would know, they are about 2 months behind on approving some agreements my office has negotiated.
I hear one OSD lawyer is so busy that he has to come in on Saturday and Sunday just to do his regular office work. If I was in his position, I would just walk away from that job. Life is way to short.