The Curious Case of the Missing Military Exports

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Clare asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation about Irish military exports, in particular, exports to Saudi Arabia, a country whose enormously troubling human rights record is well-known. The Minister puts the omission of €2.7 million worth of exports to Saudi Arabia in 2013/2014 from his Department’s annual report for that period down to a ‘compiling error’. He says that these exports were missed because they weren’t direct exports to Saudi Arabia, and passed through a middleman before they got there. However, he acknowledges that information on exports of this kind had been contained in the 2011/2012 report – we have to wonder, therefore, why it was not contained in the report for the following year.

The omission was subsequently made public in an Information Note published by the same Department. Interestingly, in the original report published by the Department for 2013/2014, the recorded military exports to Saudi Arabia in 2014 came to a grand total of €0 – that’s quite a compiling error. Exports to Qatar, Kuwait, and Finland were also entirely omitted from the original report, with the omitted exports to Qatar totaling €4.8 million. Both Qatar and Kuwait are part of the Saudi-led coalition that launched a bombing campaign against Yemen in March 2015 that has been responsible for thousands upon thousands of civilian deaths. We have to wonder if Irish military exports have played any part in the slaughter. You can read Clare’s questions, and the Minister’s answers, below.

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation why information regarding the location in Saudi Arabia of the ultimate end-user of €13.2 million €2.3million worth of military exports in 2014 and €1.7 million €0.4 million worth of military exports in 2013 was not contained in the 2013/2014 report on the operation of the Control of Exports Act 2008, with that data being subsequently published in an Information Note and whether the 2011/2012 report did contain data on the ultimate end-user of military items that had passed through systems integrators, albeit in aggregated form; and if he will make a statement on the matter.- Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 20th January, 2016.
Ref No:   2019/16

R E P L Y

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Bruton)

My Department publishes periodic reports on the operation of the Control of Exports Act, 2008 which provide information on the value and destination of licenced exports.

Included in these reports are details of the value, destination and category of military licences issued by my Department. My Department is responsible for controls on the export of these military items from Ireland. Under Irish law, military export licences must be sought in respect of the goods and technology, and any components thereof, listed in the Annex to the Control of Exports (Goods and Technology) Order, S.I. 216 of 2012 which reflects the EU Common Military List.

The report for the period 2013 to 2014 provides information on the destination of military licences. In a small number of cases the licenced destination for military exports may not be the destination of final end-use. This can arise where, for example, a component is being exported to a systems integrator or manufacturer who will in turn export the final item to another destination. Due to a compiling error information on these cases was not included in the body of the report. When this oversight came to light steps were immediately taken to correct the omission. An information note on the destination of final end-use of military exports was published on my Department’s website at the same time as the report. These destinations of final-end use included destinations such as New Zealand and Norway, as well as Saudi Arabia.

Previous reports published by my Department included details of the destination of final end-use of military exports. Future reports will include these destinations in the body of the reports.

Where the destination of final end-use differs from the licenced destination, my Department receives information on the ultimate end-use and end-user of the product and seeks a declaration that where the final product is being re-exported it will be done so under a licence issued by the national licensing authority. The licence is then issued by my Department in the name of the systems integrator. Any export of the finished item is made under a licence issued by the national licensing authority.

I am committed to providing transparency on my Department’s export licensing regime and the report covering the period 2013 to 2014 provided greater transparency in two important areas. It was the first report to provide the value of actual exports made under global licences. It provided greater detail in the breakdown of the destination and licence value of individual dual-use export licences. Whereas previous reports confirmed whether the total value of export licences issued in respect of a particular destination was above or below €100,000, the report covering the period 2013 to 2014 gave the number of licences issued across three different value bands. These reports are published in addition to the summary data on the export of controlled products which is published on my Department’s website on a six-monthly basis.

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation given recent high-profile human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, including the beheading of 47 persons in a single day, and given that Ireland exported €23.4million worth of military items to Saudi Arabia between 2011 and 2014 if he will instigate a review of the export of military items to Saudi Arabia through appropriate channels..- Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 20th January, 2016.
Ref No:   2020/16

R E P L Y

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Bruton)

My Department is responsible for controls on the export of military items from Ireland. Under Irish law, military export licences must be sought in respect of the goods and technology, and any components thereof, listed in the Annex to the Control of Exports (Goods and Technology) Order, S.I. 216 of 2012 which reflects the EU Common Military List.

Export licences to a value of €23.4m were granted under this legislation between 2011 and 2014 in respect of exports to Saudi Arabia. In most cases the licences were issued in respect of exports to systems integrators in countries other than Saudi Arabia and where these goods were ultimately re-exported in finished products to Saudi Arabia. Such re-exports are licenced by the relevant national licensing authority.

The licence values may not reflect the value of goods actually exported under those licences. Companies may include the value of expected repeat business into their licence applications and this business may not occur. Hence, the value of exports actually made under those licences may be less than the face value permitted under the export licence.

All export licence applications are subject to rigorous scrutiny, and are considered in the light of the spirit and objectives of the 2008 EU Common Position on Arms Exports.

Proposed exports of military products to Saudi Arabia, as with all other destinations, are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. My officials are in regular contact with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on export licensing issues. They consult with that Department in respect of all military export licence applications involving Saudi Arabia. My officials seek observations on any foreign policy concerns that may arise in respect of a proposed export; such factors are subject to review in the light of developments in a given region. Any observations which may arise from this examination are considered in the final assessment of any licence application.Individual licences are valid for the export of a specific quantity of goods to a specific end-user within a twelve month period. A new application must be made for any exports above that provided for on the original export licence. All new and repeat licence applications are subject to the full export licensing scrutiny process.

The EU has a range of sanctions in place in respect of countries engaged in conflicts. All licence applications are considered having regard to these measures.  Sanctions can include arms embargoes and various restrictive measures including prohibitions on the provision of targeted goods and services. There are currently no such sanctions in place in respect of Saudi Arabia.