COMMERCE OUTLINES PLANS TO EASE CONTROLS ON EXPORTS

COMMERCE OUTLINES PLANS TO EASE CONTROLS ON EXPORTS

The Commerce Department plans to announce next month a significant easing of strategic controls on exports to allied nations.

Export licensing will no longer be required by Commerce on a large array of products and technology shipped to other member nations of the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls, officials said Tuesday.Those Cocom members comprise all the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries, except Iceland, plus Japan and Australia.

The action will mark a substantial step toward creating virtually license- free trade among Cocom countries, which, U.S. officials indicate, could take force by early 1992.

Meanwhile, there is also the prospect of a ery significant relaxation soon of controls on shipments to East European countries, said Dennis Kloske, Commerce's undersecretary for export administration.

This liberalization would be expected to come within a general move by Cocom countries to ease Western technology controls for East European countries.

A Cocom decision on liberalization is due by June.

Whether the United States and its Cocom allies can agree by then on the extent of liberalization is by no means certain, said Paul Freedenberg, a former Commerce undersecretary for export administration and now a Washington- based trade consultant.

The Bush administration, he said, remains reluctant to extend to East European countries the same degree of liberalization it provides to China. It favors even more modest decontrol for the Soviet Union.

By contrast, he said, West European countries favor giving Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union, more favorable treatment than China.

"A number of our allies," he told a State Department conference Tuesday, ''don't want to make Gorbachev look bad," by denying the Soviets exports available to other East European nations.

He questioned whether the Bush administration, which is still studying its export control strategy, can come to terms within two months with other Cocom countries on these issues.

"There's a very good chance of disappointment," Mr. Freedenberg said.

Separately, Willard Workman, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official, scored the U.S. government for its restrictive export control policies. It has caused ''a whole series of missed (business) opportunities," he said.

The chamber and other major U.S. business groups, he said, will push this year for new export control legislation that, among other things, will reduce the Defense Department's policy role, require automatic easing of export controls, and decontrol exports to East European countries at least to the extent provided to China.

The administration's proposal to simply extend the export controls law another year only delays further the implementation of a more enlightened U.S. export control policy, he said.