(House committee bill emphasizes multilateral regimes) (650)

By Bruce Odessey

USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- A House of Representatives committee has approved legislation

for moving the U.S. export-control system out of the Cold War era, but the

Clinton administration opposes some provisions, especially one relaxing

controls on computer software with encryption capability.

The Foreign Affairs Committee May 18 approved by voice vote the bill

revising the Export Administration Act (EAA) and extending it from

expiration of the current EAA on June 30, 1994, through June 30, 1998.

Before the bill becomes law it must go before other House committees with

jurisdiction and win passage in the full House and Senate.  The Senate

Banking Committee is scheduled to consider its version of the EAA bill May

24.  A House-Senate conference to reconcile different versions of the bill

1s likely.

The Foreign Affairs Committee bill covers products useful in both civilian

and military applications, but not weapons themselves, which are covered by

another law.

It would link most controls to multilateral regimes and gives the president

leverage to strengthen those regimes, including preferential treatment for

regime members.  It would make the control system more transparent and

impose strict deadlines, requiring decisions on export applications within

30 days.

The bill would authorize the president to control exports as required by

participation in multilateral regimes such as the Missile Technology

Control Regime, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Australia Group (for

biological and chemical weapons) and any successor regime to the

Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM), which went

out of existence March 31.

It would restrict the president's authority to impose unilateral controls

except on exports to terrorist countries.  First, the control would have to

meet specific criteria, including whether it could be enforced and whether

the economic cost would exceed any national-security benefit.

Second, it would limit unilateral controls to 60 days unless they were

adopted multilaterally or were included in a total embargo against a

specific country.

The president could seek extension of unilateral controls, but Congress

could reject them by a joint House-Senate resolution of disapproval.

An official who asked not to be identified said the unilateral-control

restrictions posed a problem for the Clinton administration.  A bigger

problem, however, remained the encryption provision, the official said.

That provision would allow exports of "generally available" encryption

software or hardware as long as the intended end-use is civilian.  The

National Security Agency opposes this proposal while U.S. industry supports

it, arguing that such products are available from competing non-U.S.


Representative Lee Hamilton, committee chairman, said he was seeking

consultation on this issue with Anthony Lake, President Clinton's national

security adviser, and members of the House Intelligence Committee.

"A compromise might be possible," Hamilton said.

Other controversies could emerge, including one concerning the Arab League

boycott of U.S. businesses that conduct trade with Israel.  An amendment

approved by Foreign Affairs would give a right to private U.S. companies to

sue other U.S. companies that violate U.S. antiboycott law by supplying

information to Arab states about trade with Israel.

Another controversy could emerge about an amendment expected to be offered

during House floor debate by Representative Robert Torricelli.  It would

prohibit exports of satellites for launch in China or Russia if those

countries were providing that service at less than a fair price.  It would

pit U.S. satellite producers against U.S. providers of launch services.

U.S. oil companies are likely to oppose a provision of the bill extending

current law prohibiting exports of oil from Alaska's North Slope.

The Foreign Affairs bill would expand legislation passed by Congress in

April, which imposes government procurement sanctions against countries

that violate nuclear non-proliferation agreements.  The bill would also

allow imposition of import sanctions in those cases.