Title:  SENATE PASSES CONTROLS ON COMPUTER EXPORTS TO 50 COUNTRIES (Whether Clinton will sign or veto bill not clear)

Author:  Bruce Odessey USIA Staff Writer
Date:  19971106

Washington -- The Senate has given final passage to legislation that would place new controls on U.S. exports of relatively low-performance computers to 50 countries, including China, Russia, India and Israel.

The Senate passed the massive defense authorization bill including the computer provision by 90-10 November 6. The House of Representatives passed the bill October 28 by 286-123.

The Clinton administration has stated its opposition to the computer provision, but has not said it would veto the bill because of it.

Some administration officials, however, have recommended a veto over an unrelated provision of the bill concerning privatization of Air Force maintenance work. Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. With Congress adjourning until mid-January, any override attempt would not likely come until February.

The conference bill provision is somewhat weaker than a bill passed by the House in June, which would have reimposed export restrictions for the 50 countries -- India, Pakistan, all Middle East and Maghreb countries, the former Soviet republics, China, Vietnam, and most of Eastern Europe -- at the level in place before Clinton's 1995 policy relaxing computer export controls.

Under existing administration policy, no licenses are required for exports and re-exports to the 50 countries of computers operating up to 7,000 million operations per second (MTOPS) for civilian users and 2,000 MTOPS for military users.

The bill would require the administration to examine all proposed shipments of computers at the 2,000 MTOPS level to the 50 countries. The administration would have 10 days after notification by the exporting company during which a number of government agencies could insist that the company apply for an export license.

The provision also would require the Commerce Department to verify the end uses of the exports after shipment. Members of Congress have cited reported illegal diversions of U.S.-exported computers to military users in China and Russia as argument for the provision.

Perhaps even more troubling for the administration, the bill would require the administration to give Congress 180 days' notice before relaxing computer export controls further and 120 days' notice before removing any of the 50 countries from the category subject to these requirements. NNNN