U.S. allies are expected to tighten restrictions on exports of sensitive products as a result of the sale by Japanese and Norwegian firms of sophisticated submarine technology to the Soviets, a Commerce Department official said yesterday.
Congressional furor over the sale by a subsidiary of Toshiba Corp. and Norway's Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk "has already had an enormous effect" in encouraging America's partners in the Coordinating Committee for Export Control (COCOM) to stiffen restrictions on technology exports to Communist countries, according to Assistant Commerce Secretary Paul Freedenberg.
The Senate passed legislation last week to bar the two companies from selling their products in the United States for two to five years. The House is considering a companion measure.
The propeller-milling equipment the two companies supplied is enabling the Soviet Union to make its submarines run with less noise and avoid detection, U.S. officials have said.
"Obviously, it wasn't worth the damage it did to U.S. security, but the incident is having the positive result of making our COCOM allies more aware of the importance of export controls," Freedenberg said at a briefing.
Freedenberg, who will travel to Paris with Allan Wendt, the State Department's special ambassador for technology, for a meeting of the committee this month, predicted that COCOM will agree to tougher standards for exports before the end of summer.
Many member nations already are considering proposals to increase the number of personnel assigned to the licensing of technology exports and are drafting legislation to toughen the penalties for export control offenses, Freedenberg said.
The Norwegian government has promised a "massive upgrade" of its export control system, and the Japanese government is investigating improvements in its system, he said.
The Commerce Department is planning an audit of Toshiba Machine Co., the subsidiary of Toshiba, and Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk to help the companies improve their monitoring procedures, Freedenberg said. Under the terms of legislation approved by the Senate, the two firms would have to be certified by a Commerce Department audit before resuming U.S. sales.
The 16 Western nations belonging to COCOM sell high-technology products freely to one another and have joint policies on exports of certain products to other Western nations and to Communist countries. The organization includes Japan and all the NATO countries except Iceland.
In the past, the administration has expressed dissatisfaction with member nations' lack of commitment to COCOM.