The Clinton Administration lifted export restrictions Wednesday on the sale of most commercial computer and telecommunications equipment to Russia, Eastern Europe and China, closing a chapter in the Cold War and giving U.S. manufacturers access to billions of dollars of business a year.
The announcement, which surprised and delighted industry officials meeting at a Washington hotel, coincided with a decision to close down the international agency that has controlled exports of Western weapons and weapons-related technologies to the former Soviet Bloc for 45 years.
The Paris-based Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Controls, known as Cocom, officially goes out of business today.
Clinton Administration officials, meeting with European, Japanese and Australian counterparts in The Hague, Netherlands, were unable to get agreement on creating a successor to Cocom that would control weapons-related exports to “countries of concern"--North Korea, Libya, Iran and Iraq. The new agency would also continue to control exports to all nations of the most threatening technologies, those dealing with nuclear and chemical weapons, and missile technology.
While negotiations on a successor agency continue, the Cocom nations promised to keep in place current restrictions on exports of products with military purposes. They will press for an agreement before year’s end.
“We still live in a world of hazards,” said Robert E. Rubin, head of the White House National Economic Council, who announced the new policy.
Underlining the tug and pull of the Administration’s export policy, he also stressed President Clinton’s desire to help U.S. companies compete abroad.
Although the 17 Cocom members will continue cooperating on weapons proliferation policy, each country is now free to make its own decision about what to export.