WASHINGTON — Commerce Secretary Malcolm Baldrige on Monday unveiled a streamlined program designed to speed the approval of non-strategic high-technology exports to Peking, which now account for 75% of the United States' growing export business with China.
Under the program, 27 product categories--including personal computers, machine tools, robotics, semiconductors, fiber optics and electronic instruments--no longer will have to be cleared for export by COCOM, which controls the Western alliance's sales of strategic materials to Communist countries.
Paris-based COCOM, formally known as the Coordinating Committee for Multi-Export Controls, in the past has taken as long as a year to process the applications for U.S. high-tech exports, virtually all of which were approved.
Baldrige termed the relaxation of trade restrictions "a major step ahead in trade with China." And a Commerce Department spokesman, B. Jay Cooper, declared: "This should lessen that choke point at COCOM."
Baldrige, who said the new trade licensing system will take effect later this week, predicted that the backlog on China cases would be reduced to less than 30 days.
He explained that a prospective exporter will deal primarily with a Commerce Department office on China trade. In the case of non-strategic high-tech products on the new "quick-approval" list, the exporter will have to provide an "end-use" certificate to guard against any eventual diversion of the equipment or its technology to military use. Commerce Department officials said that all such certificates will be issued and validated by the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and Trade in Peking.
The new procedures were worked out among the Commerce, Defense and State departments and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative in protracted negotiations earlier this year. During those talks, the Pentagon--which had opposed previous attempts to speed the export of some high-tech products--reportedly strongly favored the new system.
$6.4 Billion in Trade
The program also was negotiated at length within COCOM, where last year more than two-thirds of all license applications involved sales to China.
Trade between the United States and China in 1984 totaled about $6.4 billion.
In a separate development Monday, President Reagan signed legislation implementing a controversial U.S.-China agreement on nuclear cooperation after a House-Senate conference committee eliminated the final obstacle to the pact.
Reagan declared: "This joint resolution serves our interests in promoting peaceful nuclear cooperation. It will further U.S. non-proliferation (of nuclear weapons) and other foreign policy interests."
The pact, concluded by the President during his trip to Peking in April, 1984, would authorize the first sale of nuclear material and equipment to the Communist Chinese.
The agreement was threatened last week when the Senate, reversing itself, approved an amendment sponsored by Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) that had been appended to separate legislation, a crucial stopgap spending bill.
Under the amendment, any sales of nuclear technology to China would have been blocked until Reagan certified that the pact included adequate non-proliferation safeguards.
The White House, warning that the amendment would scuttle the pact and could seriously damage relations with China, threatened to veto the spending bill if necessary--even though doing so would have brought government operations to a standstill.
A furious lobbying campaign against the Glenn measure paid off Monday as conferees voted 15 to 7 to delete the amendment from the funding bill.