U.S. to Spur Licensing of Exports

By Clyde H. Farnsworth
The New York Times

Washington -- June 17, 1986 -- The Reagan Administration, under mounting Congressional and business pressure to strengthen the nation's trading position, announced a plan today to streamline the unwieldy process that companies go through to receive an export license.

The plan, which will be drafted into regulations after a 60-day period of comment, was disclosed today at a joint news conference by senior officials of the Commerce and Defense departments. Preliminary draft regulations are expected to be published within the next few days.

The program would work through a pre-certification procedure, similar, in some respects, to the clearance for credit purchases that a consumer gets by showing a credit card.

Exporters would avoid having to seek licenses for a large variety of high-technology products if their foreign customers were certified as reliable ''end-users'' by the Commerce Department's Office of Export Licensing. Certification means the end-users have undertaken not to transfer American goods for reshipment to the Soviet Union or Eastern bloc countries, the officials said.

Each certified end-user would be assigned a number. Any American supplier would use this number in place of a validated export license as authorization for the export, and the transaction would be cleared within a day or two, the officials said.

American manufacturers have long complained that they lose business to their foreign competitors when overseas customers learn they may not receive prompt delivery. The Government red tape typically involved the licensing of computers, telecommunications equipment and other such sensitive high-technology equipment for sale abroad.

President Reagan's Commission on Industrial Competitiveness, headed by John A. Young, chief executive of the Hewlett-Packard Company of Palo Alto, Calif., placed the annual lost sales as a result of the control policy at $12 billion.

Initial reaction in the business community to the plan was cautious and a bit skeptical. ''If it would reduce the burden on exports, it will meet with support,'' said Calman J. Cohen, vice president of the Emergency Committee for American Trade, representing chief executives of 60 leading exporting companies. ''But the proof has to be in the tasting of the pudding.''

For years the United States has operated an elaborate system of export controls. In the postwar period these have been aimed chiefly at preventing American high technology from aiding the Soviet Union.

The corporate complaints on the Government's export-licensing procedures have grown as the trade deficit has mounted. One recent reaction was a business-supported provision in the trade bill that passed the House of Representatives last month in which the number of products subject to export controls would be slashed by 40 percent over three years. This provision, and indeed the entire House trade bill, is strongly opposed by the Administration.

Paul Freedenberg, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for trade administration, said the new plan would apply to nonmilitary items and would exclude products at the top end of the technology scale, such as supercomputers.

Initially, only companies in the 16 countries that are members of the Coordinating Committee on Multilateral Export Controls can apply for certification. The committee is a coordinating body for regulating exports to the Soviet bloc.

Copyright 1986 The New York Times Company