The Commerce Department has drafted proposals to provide hardship exemptions on some exports of high-technology goods to the Soviet Union, according to congressional and Commerce Department sources.
The Carter administration banned the export of high-technology items, such as computers, to the Soviet Union following Russia's invasion of Afghanistan. The ban on shipping grain would not be subject to Commerce's proposed exemptions.
A senior White House official said last night that he knew of no change in the administration's policy on trading with the Soviet Union. Until a review of export agreements ordered by the president is completed "no one is authorized to speak" on any change in policy, the official said.
Commerce Department officials are considering the exemptions in response to complaints from business people and other Commerce Department officials who want to promote exporting as part of the government's new reorganization of trade activities which went into effect on Jan. 2, sources said.
One source said that a group of business people who recently met with administration officials were assured that in about a month they can expect "business as usual" as a result of the revisions in Commerce Department export regulations.
The draft of the hardship exemptions, which was circulated last Friday, has not been acted on, according to a Commerce Department spokesman. The spokesman said he didn't know when they would be acted on.
"There is discussion of how to handle these hardship cases," the spokesman said, "but I don't know when a policy would be forthcoming."
Exemptions to the order banning the shipment of high-technology goods have not been spelled out, "but it can reasonably be concluded that a policy of granting exceptions for cases falling into a few hardship categories would not contravene the President's wishes," according to the draft proposal.
The most urgent problem, the draft said, would involve the supply of spare parts and services "necessary for human health and safety (e.g. maintenance at Moscow Airport of U.S.-built airplanes owned by Western European passenger airlines; maintenance of intensive care unit in hospital)."
The next more urgent problems are maintenance of equipment under service contracts. Another category under consideration is delivered instructions following delivery of equipment "where delivery is nearly complete but payment is contingent on final delivery of technical data in the form of instruction."
After that in order of priority is delivery of technical data for equipment for building a plant in the Soviet Union and delivery of replacement parts for equipment.
The Commerce Department spokesman said that the hardship exemptions would not contravene the president order although some congressional and Commerce Department sources said they believe it will.
"Their business is to sell U.S. products," one Capitol Hill source said of Commerce employes. "On its face it looks like a clamp-down. But within a matter of weeks it will be business as usual."
Commerce Secretary Philip M. Klutznick, testifying yesterday before a Senate subcommittee, noted that the department has already denied eight applications for export licenses amounting to about $1 billion. But earlier Klutznick said that those applications would have been denied anyway.