Controls on Exports Of Some Computers Are Lifted by U.S.

By Eduardo Lachica, Staff Reporter
The Wall Street Journal

January 2, 1985

Washington -- The Commerce Department decontrolled the export of certain types of small computers, computing devices built into other products and peripheral equipment, in keeping with an agreement reached last summer with 14 allied countries.

Walter Olsen, deputy assistant secretary of commerce for export administration, said many popular models of personal computers, including the Apple I and II series and the Radio Shack TRS 80, now can be freely exported. Technically, all computers with data-processing rates below two million bits of information a second and with memories that don't exceed 1.15 million bits are exempted from licensing requirements.

The department also freed up exports of "embedded" computers -- those that are an integral part of a product -- with data-processing rates below 28 million bits a second and of "incorporated" computers -- those that can be removed from a product without impairing its function -- with rates below five million bits a second, provided the products they are part of aren't subject to licensing.

Administration officials said the same guidelines are being adopted by the 14 other countries that are members of the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls, or Cocom. The group, made up of the U.S., Japan and 13 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, agreed last July to drop controls on such products because they already are widely manufactured and sold throughout the world.

But the new export guidelines, which were published in the Federal Register Monday, still fell short of the expectations of some U.S. producers. "There could be some howls and complaints when the exporting community realizes that the rules aren't as liberal as it was led to believe," said Roger Grossel, a member of the Commerce Department's technical advisory committee.

Mr. Grossel said the guidelines contain some restrictions that could narrow the number of computers eligible for decontrol. Some of these restrictions apply to a user's ability to reprogram a computer or change its purpose with new software.

"It's a definition problem," he explained. "The liberality of the rules will depend on how the licensing bureaucracy interprets them."

The new export standards set by Cocom were intended to allow members to freely trade most low-level computers designed for civilian use and to continue to deny the Soviet bloc all other computers with potential military application. But distinguishing between the two isn't always easy, and Mr. Olsen conceded that some of the rules may have to be clarified as the department starts applying them. The guidelines went into effect yesterday.

The department also decontrolled certain low-level peripheral computer equipment, such as printers, floppy discs and visual displays.

Copyright (c) 1985, Dow Jones & Co., Inc.