HOUSE WANTS EXPORT CURBS EASED SHARPLY

HOUSE WANTS EXPORT CURBS EASED SHARPLY

Legislation in the House to press the administration into radically easing U.S. export control policy may move forward this week.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday is scheduled to consider a bill that would accomplish what U.S. exporters have long urged in revising national security controls on exports.The House move comes as the Bush administration is close to deciding on its recommendations for relaxing security controls on sales to Eastern Europe.

The Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Controls, or Cocom - a 17-nation group comprising the United States, other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Japan and Australia - is due early next month to revamp its export policies toward Eastern Europe.

As of a few months ago, the United States was urging a less open policy than most of Cocom's other members.

The House bill, approved unanimously last week by a Foreign Affairs subcommittee, would direct the administration to agree to a substantial easing of export controls for Eastern Europe, including the Soviet Union. The bill also would create by next year export control-free trade among Cocom countries and other nations that cooperate in preventing militarily significant goods and technology from reaching unfriendly hands.

Among the bill's other provisions are a wide-ranging authorization for the export of relatively advanced supercomputers, a significant decontrol of shipments of telecommunications products for civilian use and a complete review of the U.S. export controls list by October 1991.

So far, the Bush administration says only that it wants a simple one-year extension of the existing export controls law, which expires Nov. 1.

But one private group, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Security Policy, whose members include prominent conservatives, calls the bill "the Soviet military relief act."

The legislation, warns Frank Gaffney Jr., the center's director, would ''set the stage for an uncontrollable hemorrhage of militarily relevant high technology to the Soviet Union."

The center faults the bill for removing national security export controls ''on all goods and technology to all but a few countries" and for further reducing the Defense Department's role in assessing what can be "safely transferred" to the Soviet Union.

But Paul Freedenberg, recently the Commerce Department's undersecretary for export administration and now a trade consultant here, terms the bill "on the whole very positive."

Legislators, he said, are pushing the measure to elicit a "bolder, more

innovative" administration export control policy. Unless the administration responds, he said, the United States risks losing the cooperation of its allies on export control policy.

Some elements of the House bill, Mr. Freedenberg said, probably will be reined in. Examples, he said, include the language liberalizing supercomputer exports and calling for a much reduced overall export control list.

The Senate in particular, he noted, takes a more conservative approach to export controls.