European Affairs

Zodiac of North America, the company that makes inflatable boats used by U.S. Marines, SEALs and special forces, found out the hard way.

The company also makes the kind of toilets that are installed in commercial airliners, said Jean-Jacques Marie, Zodiac’s president. But when Zodiac attempted to sell some overseas for use on military planes, the company learned it would need the same State Department approval as if it were selling bombsights.

Marie recounted his company’s experience during a gathering of U.S. and European business executives and government officials at The European Institute’s Transatlantic Roundtable on Defense and Security in May at which participants complained about restrictions they said hurt defense companies and keep the U.S. military from working efficiently with their allies… For Britain’s BAE Systems, which has a U.S. branch that employs 45,000 U.S. workers, U.S. trade restrictions mean engineers can’t be moved from one part of the company to the other without getting U.S. government approval, according to Peter Lichtenbaum, BAE’s vice president for regulatory compliance and international policy.

One result is that European companies are trying to design U.S.-made parts out of their products…

Mark Esper, vice president of the U.S. trade group, Aerospace Industries Association, suggested urging U.S. combatant commanders…to explain to Congress that it would benefit U.S. troops if U.S. allies were able to acquire night vision goggles, radios and other equipment now kept off limits by export controls.


This article was published in European Affairs: Volume number 8, Issue number 2-3 in the Summer/Fall of 2007.