PARIS, JAN. 28 -- U.S. officials said tonight that allied governments have pledged to strengthen enforcement of their laws banning exports of sensitive technology to the Soviet Union.
The general promise to improve enforcement was the major accomplishment of an urgent two-day meeting in nearby Versailles of the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls, or COCOM, the officials said.
The gathering of COCOM, through which western allies and Japan police technology transfers to Warsaw Pact nations, was convened by the Reagan administration in response to growing irritation in Congress over the committee's effectiveness in halting questionable sales by European and Japanese firms.
To mark the administration's concern, the normally mid-level U.S. delegation to COCOM gatherings was headed by Deputy Secretary of State John C. Whitehead. Officials said this meeting was the first attended by an envoy of his rank and that several other of the 16 COCOM members dispatched delegates of similar standing within their governments.
COCOM was founded more than 30 years ago at U.S. initiative to keep technology with military applications from reaching the Soviet Union and its allies. The organization, which regularly gathers in Paris, comprises Japan and the Atlantic Alliance allies except Iceland.
In briefing reporters after the meeting, Whitehead and three other U.S. officials went out of their way to depict the gathering as a successful tightening of COCOM controls. The officials repeatedly expressed increased confidence that COCOM restrictions will be more effective and said "unilateral" steps such as those proposed in Congress would not work.
Several bills before Congress would punish foreign companies found to make sales in violation of COCOM rules by barring them from sales in the U.S. market.
"We don't believe that's the way to go," said one official. "The United States can't effectively control transfer of sensitive goods and technology by itself."
The legislative proposals were prompted particularly by Soviet acquisition through the Norwegian firm Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk and the Japanese company Toshiba of computer and milling equipment that made possible manufacture of ultrasilent submarine propellers.
An amendment to the Senate trade bill, sponsored by Sen. Jake Garn (R-Utah) and adopted 92 to 5 last June in reaction to these sales, would bar imports of finished goods from Toshiba or Kongsberg or their subsidiaries for two to five years.
Several European nations have warned the Reagan administration that, in the long run, such punitive measures as the Garn amendment could undercut cooperation in COCOM, which depends on each country to carry out its commitment to police technology transfers. It was against the background of these warnings that this week's COCOM meeting was called and that the U.S. officials described the pledge for more stringent controls.