The United States and its allies have agreed to expand the list of high-technology products that can be sold to China without a cumbersome license approval procedure, Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige announced yesterday.
The agreement with U.S. allies, reached in the fall but fully approved last week, will clear a massive backlog of applications that threatened to overwhelm Cocom, the Paris-based Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls, which oversees sales of sensitive western technology to communist nations. About 80 percent of Cocom's current caseload involves exports to China.
"This is part of the administration's continuing effort to improve trade relations with the People's Republic of China," Baldrige said. "These new procedures will speed up exports to China and will be carried out consistent with national and multinational security interests."
He said it now takes as long as six months to one year to get Cocom approval for a sale to China.
Commerce officials said an estimated three-fourths of all U.S. exports to China that had required Comcom approval now can be shipped with American licenses under an expedited system that should reduce delays to one month. The new rules, which took effect Sunday, expand from seven to 27 the number of categories of products that can be shipped without a Cocom review.
Among the high-technology products covered by the new procedures are computers, machine tools, robots and other automated equipment, semiconductors and semiconductor-manufacturing equipment, fiber optics, telecommunication switching equipment, oscilloscopes and electronic instruments.
The United States is seen as the main beneficiary from the relaxed export rules. But Japan and European countries such as France are also trying to expand high-technology sales in China.
China has made its ability to buy U.S. high technology a touchstone of its improved relationship with the United states.