Author:  Bruce Odessey USIA Staff Writer
Date:  19971029

Washington -- The Clinton administration opposes passage by Congress of a bill that could lead to reimposition of controls on U.S. exports of a number of relatively low-performance computers to 50 countries, including China, Russia, India and Israel, a U.S. Department of Commerce official says.

William Reinsch, under secretary of commerce for export administration, viewed it as unlikely that Congress would now delete the provision from the defense authorization bill, which has already gone through a House of Representatives-Senate conference committee.

In October 29 remarks to a Presidents Export Council subcommittee, Reinsch did not indicate whether, if the bill passes, President Clinton would veto it because of the computer provision. The House passed the bill late October 28 on a 286-123 vote. The Senate began consideration of it October 29.

To become law the bill must still pass the Senate and get Clinton's signature or overcome a Clinton veto with two-thirds votes in the House and Senate.

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.

Under the conference bill, the administration would have 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 would also 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