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Public Papers - 1991 - May

Statement by Press Secretary Fitzwater on Multilateral Export Controls


Last evening, the United States and sixteen Western allies agreed in Paris to implement a new system of export controls for dual-use goods and technologies with significant military applications. The agreement brings to a close a major review of allied East-West export control policy initiated in January 1990, in response to the President's call upon the member states of the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM) to adapt their export control regimes to the rapidly changing international political and military environment.

For over 40 years, COCOM, comprised of NATO members (less Iceland) plus Japan and Australia, has maintained a system of export controls to keep key technologies with both military and civilian uses from being used to enhance the military capability of certain countries. Historically, these have included the Soviet Union, former members of the Warsaw Pact, the People's Republic of China, and several other countries. The changes to be implemented by COCOM partners demonstrate the continued relevance of COCOM and its ability to adapt quickly to changing world circumstances.

The agreement means a 50% reduction in existing export controls to a ``Core List'' of militarily strategic technologies and goods. That reduction is in addition to a 33% cut in the list agreed to by COCOM in June 1990. The United States and its partners concluded that an overhaul of the lists was justified, based on a changing strategic situation and rapid diffusion of some technologies that were making the existing control lists obsolete. The Core List contains only the most critical goods and technologies, which are essential in maintaining the existing significant gaps between Western and Soviet-based military systems, gaps that were demonstrated to be critical to our national security in Operation Desert Storm. On the other hand, because of the broad diffusion of certain technologies, export controls have been eliminated, for example, on most of the computers exported from the United States today. COCOM member/states also agreed to significant reductions in controls on microprocessors, machine tools, aircraft, avionics, and propulsion systems. In addition, the United States will continue a presumption of approval for the export of Core List items to bona fide civil end-users for civilian purposes.

The new agreement continues the trend toward reducing controls on items destined for Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary, reflecting the disintegration of the Warsaw Pact and the fact that these three countries have entered into strategic trade agreements with Western nations to prevent diversion of Western-supplied technology to the Soviet Union.

COCOM partners agreed that individual countries will continue controling goods and technologies dropped from the COCOM list that could contribute to the development of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, and the missiles to deliver them.

Full implementation of the new lists is planned for September 1, 1991, and a fact sheet is available that provides additional details on the COCOM agreement.

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