FURTHER EASING OF COMPUTER EXPORTS SEEN IN CLINTON MOVE

FURTHER EASING OF COMPUTER EXPORTS SEEN IN CLINTON MOVE

A Clinton administration decision last week to ease supercomputer export controls is likely to be followed by a further liberalization within the next two years, U.S. officials said.

As technology advances export controls on less powerful computers will continue to be relaxed, they said.The administration's new supercomputer guidelines announced Friday reflect that policy.

The administration said it will no longer control supercomputer exports to its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies, Mexico, Japan, Australia and New Zealand - no matter how advanced the computer.

Also, it will no longer require individual export licenses on computers of up to 10,000 million theoretical operations per second to a number of other countries, including Latin America, the Association of South East Asian Nations, South Korea, Hungary, Poland and Czech Republic.

Under existing rules, computers with a greater than 1,500-MTOPS capacity generally could not exported without a validated government license.

For countries such as Russia and other former Soviet republics, China, India, Pakistan and the Mideast/Maghreb states, U.S. exporters will be able to ship computers of up to 2,000 MTOPS without a government license. Computers of up to 7,000 MTOPS also may be exported license-free to civilian buyers in those countries.

The U.S. ban on supercomputers to Iraq, Iran, Libya and North Korea remains intact.

U.S. computer executives universally lauded the administration's decision. ''I'm delighted," said Peter McCloskey, president of the Electronic Industries Association. The complete decontrol of exports to Western Europe, Canada and other allies is "great," said Jan Goebel, a spokeswoman for the Information Technology Industry Council.

William Archey, president of the American Electronics Association, noted, however, that the action provides "only short-term relief. The 7,000-to- 10,000-MTOPS range is just 2 percent of the fastest performing machines expected to be available in 1996," he said. "As computing speed doubles every 12 months, the administration should establish a routine policy review process to keep pace with a dynamic industry."

The administration's new policy may boost U.S. supercomputer exports "over the next couple of years . . . by about $1 billion to $2 billion," an administration aide estimated.

The new policy will not take force, however, until the Commerce Department implements a new set of regulations. And before that is done, the United States will consult with Japan, with which it has a bilateral supercomputer export control agreement.

Japan is expected to go along with the U.S. decision, especially since it has been announced by President Clinton. The administration, said Paul Freedenberg, a Washington-based trade consultant, is unlikely to back down.