U.S. Again Eases Computer-Export Restrictions

WASHINGTON (08/04/2000) - In what is starting to become a routine occurrence, the White House said late Thursday that it intends to ease export restrictions on shipments of high-performance computers to a number of countries, including India, China and Russia.

"It's a significant action for the U.S. computer industry," said Dan Hoydysh, director of governmental relations at Unisys Corp. in Blue Bell, Pa., and co-chairman of the Computer Coalition for Responsible Exports in Washington, which represents most of the large computer companies. But Hoydysh said the government's ongoing restrictions remain a burden to competition in world markets. "We don't think there is much being accomplished in going through these exercises. That is why we are looking for a longer-term solution," he said.

This is the second time this year that the White House has revised the export controls.

Under the guidelines, the world's nations are divided into four "tiers," with the most trusted nations, such as Japan, Canada and those of Western Europe, having no restrictions.

The U.S. sets computer threshold exports based on performance measured in millions of theoretical operations per second (MTOPS). The new guidelines roughly double the MTOPS level, to 28,000 MTOPS, for the 50 so-called Tier 3 countries, which include Middle Eastern nations, Vietnam, Central Europe, Pakistan, the former Soviet Union countries and China. Computers exported to countries above that limit need licenses issued by the government.

It takes six months for the new ceilings to take effect. The Clinton administration's action in February to ease restrictions takes effect Aug. 14.

The restriction levels announced Thursday should be lifted in time to include Intel Corp.'s computer running four 64-bit Itanium processors, which is roughly at the 28,000 MTOPS level, said Hoydysh.

The U.S. adopted the restrictions in 1993 in an effort to keep sensitive technology of a potentially military nature out of the hands of foreign nations. U.S.-based computer makers have argued that the restrictions have put them at a competitive disadvantage with foreign-based computer makers selling high-performance computers.

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