Two key Republican senators introduced revisions to the Export Administration Act yesterday that come closer to the White House's controversial proposals to limit the flow of Western technology to the Soviets than a version currently before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Senate bill splits the differences between Chairman Jake Garn (R-Utah) of the Senate Banking Committee and Sen. John Heinz (R-Pa.), who heads its international finance and monetary policy subcommittee, and will be considered by the Banking Committee next week.
The Garn-Heinz bill, nonetheless, does not go as far as the administration wants toward controlling the flow of technology to the Soviets--an issue that remains a major irritant between Washington and its allies of Western Europe, Canada and Japan despite President Reagan's assertion Tuesday night of "peace among us on East-West trade."
A highly placed French diplomat, for instance, as recently as Monday called the administration's efforts to tighten East-West trade "a potential time bomb" while the Canadians, Japanese and European Economic Community all have objected strenuously in diplomatic notes to the White House proposals.
Despite those strong objections, however, it appears as a result of private understandings reached in Paris last week by Secretary of State George P. Shultz that the rift will be not become a disruptive force in the summit meeting in Williamsburg over the Memorial Day weekend.
This is part of an effort to make sure the summit appears to be successful by smoothing over differences in the alliance. The East-West trade issue exploded at the 1982 summit at Versailles, generally causing it to be labeled a failure, as a result of Reagan administration efforts to stop construction of a natural gas pipeline from the Soviet Union to Western Europe.
Neither the Garn-Heinz bill nor the version in the House Foreign Affairs Committee removes the element of the administration proposals that the allies find most objectionable--the United States' claim of extraterritorial authority to act against foreign-based subsidiaries of American companies. There are, though, some parts of the Senate bill that appear aimed at meeting Western allies' objections by placing some restrictions on presidential actions.
Both House and Senate versions, however, meet complaints by American exporters that the administration bill will hurt U.S. companies' ability to sell overseas.
The Garn-Heinz bill strengthens contract-sanctity provisions, banning the president from exercising trade sanctions for foreign policy reasons on existing contracts. It also forces the president to consider the availability from other countries of banned exports and the cooperation of Western allies in any sanction move and, moreover, reduces the period he can impose trade sanctions from one year to six months.
The argument of overseas sales versus security lay at the heart of a debate within the Reagan administration over how tightly to control exports of technology that could have military application in the Soviet Union. Some trade observers believe those in the administration who favored less stringent controls are using Congress to win the fight they lost in the White House.
The differences between Garn and Heinz, who had proposed vastly different bills, followed the same general theme as the debate within the administration.