Export Controls Aimed at China Opposed
Senior Commerce official expects White House efforts to modify House defense bill
WASHINGTON, DC - 05/24/05 - The Bush Administration "in all likelihood" will oppose a provision in a House of Representatives defense bill for tightening export controls in order to prevent increased arms trade with China, a senior Department of Commerce official said.
Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration Peter Lichtenbaum said he expects the Administration to oppose the provision included in the defense authorization bill, though, he stressed he has seen "no formal Administration position on the bill yet."
According to the Washington Wire, the provision was approved May 12 by the House Armed Services Committee at least partly in reaction to the possibility that the European Union would soon lift its weapons trade embargo on China.
It would generally prohibit US exports of military goods or dual-use items - technology useful, experts say, in both military and commercial applications - "to any foreign person or foreign country that has previously exported any such item to Chinese military or security units."
Such exports could go ahead only under certain circumstances: if the Secretary of Defense concurred in approving a necessary State Department or Commerce Department export license and if the foreign purchaser agrees in writing not to transfer the item.
Business executives at a recent President's Export Council (PEC) subcommittee meeting reportedly expressed their concerns about that provision to Lichtenbaum, who responded saying "the Administration would likely work to modify that provision as well as another one opposed by the business executives."
The other provision would broadly expand export license requirements for all countries on US-made technology deemed militarily critical.
Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) blasted that provision in House floor debate May 19, arguing that it would re-impose controls on computers below a technological level already approved five years ago - "thus preventing our technology industry from exporting computing products that are a few generations old."
The amendment, she said, "is so broad that it would immediately require export licenses for exports of things such as laptop and desktop computers, which can't possibly serve any national security interest."
Eshoo said the provision would prevent US exports to key export markets such as Canada, Mexico, Europe, and Asia.
Any disruptions to trade in computers and related products is a critical issue to Ashoo's constituents.
Immediately adjacent to the Northern California high tech hub of Santa Clara, her 14th Congressional District encompasses a significant part of Silicon Valley including the communities of Sunnyvale, Menlo Park, Stanford, Los Altos, and Mountain View - homes in their own right to many computer companies with sales in China and around the world.
Under Secretary of Commerce Kenneth Juster told the subcommittee that in a trip to Beijing just days earlier he and Chinese officials signed an agreement, concluded after many years of negotiations, allowing Commerce Department officials to conduct end-use visits.
These visits, he said, "would aim to verify whether US exports of controlled dual-use technology to China are being used by the intended recipients for the intended purpose."
Juster said that the agreement allows Commerce officials to conduct more than 20 high-priority inspections - some of which are already under way, he said. Verification would make a number of Chinese companies eligible for more licensed exports.
Chinese authorities are eager to improve their export-control regime, he said. Neither side at the meeting raised the issue of lifting US sanctions imposed on military exports to China in 1989 after the Tiananmen Square massacre, he said.
Meanwhile, Lichtenbaum said a preliminary regulation for relaxing export controls on Iraq could be published in June.
He said the complex rule, which would transfer jurisdiction from the Treasury Department to Commerce, should have inter-agency clearance by the end of this month.
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