(Source: Defense News, 1 Aug 2018.) [Excerpts.]
The U.S. is currently withholding clearance of an American component on the French Scalp cruise missile, which prevents the sale of additional Rafale fighter jets to Egypt. France is looking for ways to reduce its dependence on U.S. approval, but lacks the means to be completely autonomous.
“It is true that we depend on this [U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations] mechanism: We are at the mercy of the Americans when our equipment is concerned,” French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told the Committee for National Defense and Armed Forces of the lower-house National Assembly, according to recently released transcripts from July 4.
Parly said that the ministry needs “to analyze” French dependence on the U.S. and should be discussing with industry as well as the Economy and Finance Ministry ways for France to protect itself from American legislation.
When French President Emmanuel Macron attempted to convince President Donald Trump to provide clearance for the cruise missile component Trump recommended French experts talk to their American counterparts to work out the clearance, but the issue was not resolved according to a French defense source.
The U.S. has been the world leader in arms exports for more than 70 years, accounting for more than a third of total foreign military sales, Parly told parliamentarians. She added that European nations need to buy less American equipment to help reduce U.S. supremacy and take actions to promote European defense.
Macron has requested a French equivalent of the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program, which handles government-to-government deals, she said. Client nations prefer this approach rather than dealing with companies. The French Armed Forces and Economics and Finance ministries have created a framework agreement that will likely be adopted as the model for an intergovernmental arms contract, backed by a public tender and observing national and European law, she said.
The U.S. has been relaxing its rules on arms exports, with the State Department adopting the Conventional Arms Transfer policy, which eases the way for companies to directly pitch some types of weapons and drones without having to go to Washington for official approval.