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Rohrabacher Statement on the threat of Chinese Satellite Technology and Export Controls

Apr 2, 2009
Floor Speeches



Washington, Apr 2, 2009 - Let me be totally frank with you: if you don’t want export control reform to become a debate about China, then you need to take China off the table right now, and agree that any reform is going to be two tiered: one system for countries that behave according to international norms, and one system for the proliferators and gangsters who rule China … the Chinese Communist Party.
I am not the one to make this a debate about China. Last week, the heads of the world’s largest satellite operators said that they want to launch their satellites on Chinese rockets, they are cheaper. In fact, every time these satellite operators are given the opportunity to discuss ITAR reform, they never fail to say that they want permission to use Long March. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to deduce that at the leading edge of this reform effort is a desire to open the way again for launches of US satellites on Chinese military rockets.

It is somewhat offensive for SES, whose holding company is in Luxembourg; and Telesat, which is Canadian; and Eutelsat, which is French; and Intelsat, which pays taxes in Bermuda; to lecture us that we need to save US jobs by letting those foreign companies have the advantage of cut-rate Chinese military launches. What about U.S. launch providers? Don’t their jobs don’t count? Or do rockets and services need to be subsidized by their government to count?
Now, as a Republican and a believer in free markets, I don’t begrudge satellite operators the millions in profits they are making; in fact their sector seems to be one of the few recession proof industries right now. But from the way operators like Eutelsat speak; you’d think they are going broke. Au contraire: Eutelsat is making a fortune with a 97% transponder utilization rate. At the same time Eutelsat has the audacity to crow about the need for cheap Chinese launches. This is completely disingenuous. As Benjamin Franklin once said: “sir, please don’t burn down my barn to cook your eggs.” And I say here today, Eutelsat, don’t endanger our national security to fatten your profits. And I add that some of those profits come from our taxpayers through your contracts with the Defense Department.

It seems to me the calculus is this. If we allow the Chinese Communist Party to launch US satellites, we give profits to foreign operators, and may gain a few additional sales of US satellites for those launches. But to do this, rocket and satellite development in China is bolstered by gaining valuable launch experience from access to our satellites. The Chinese Communist Party’s own hand will be strengthened and it can be counted on to pass on these benefits to the world’s most dangerous regimes, including North Korea, Pakistan and Iran. Of course, we can all hope and pray the Chinese Communist Party will respond by reforming its repressive political control. Remember, there are reasons why Communist China remains under an arms embargo. The Tiananmen Square massacre, where the tyrannical and brutal Chinese government murdered thousands of peaceful reformers, changed the course of history. Let us not forget it was this massacre that triggered the embargo, but the failure of China to respect human rights keeps that sanction in place.

It may surprise you; I am completely sympathetic to reforming ITAR. Let’s streamline licensing, let’s make the process more user friendly. Some of you may not remember that along with Chairman Berman, I offered a bill to return licensing jurisdiction to the Department of Commerce. My constituency has a lot to lose in terms of competitiveness, if we don’t reform ITAR. But I tell you this, the companies in my district, like Orbital Sciences, Boeing Satellite Systems, and Sea Launch will be closed out of the commercial market—and that itself will hurt our national security--, if we allow China to move back into the launch services market place.

Before I close, I just want to say that there are some important questions regarding export control that require answers that only the State and Defense Departments can provide. As there are no witnesses from the administration, I plan to send letters to the SecState and SecDef, and I would ask that these questions be made a part of the hearing record.

So let us proceed as follows: take China off of the table now, and we can get down to the business of reforming ITAR and export control.