Nations to relax controls on most exports

U.S., 16

December 26, 1991|By Richard Lawrence | Richard Lawrence,Journal of Commerce

WASHINGTON -- The United States and 16 other nations will further ease export controls on trade with each other early next year.

The action, which one U.S. official said may occur by Feb. 1, will come close to meeting a long-sought goal: trade among the 17 countries that would be free of government export licensing controls on both civilian and military high-technology goods.

The 17 countries, which comprise all North Atlantic Treaty Organization members except Iceland, plus Japan and Australia, form the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls, or COCOM, a Paris-based group that coordinates control over trade in strategic goods and technology.

With fewer U.S. government export controls, American companies can compete better with European Community companies in the EC market, said Calman Cohen, vice president of the Emergency Committee for American Trade, a group of U.S.-based multinational firms.

U.S. officials and business representatives point out that the coming action will stop short of creating a completely "license-free" COCOM trading zone.

Last June, COCOM countries reduced by about two-thirds the number of goods subject to export licenses in intra-COCOM trade. The coming action will cut the number of items another 10 percent to 20 percent, according to James LeMunyon, a deputy assistant secretary of commerce.

This would still leave under export control somewhere between 10 percent and 20 percent of the military-civilian use items that had been subject to control in early 1990.

The change will not affect items on COCOM's munitions and atomic energy control lists.

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