The Clinton administration Wednesday proposed lifting export control licenses for PC shipments to China, Russia, and former states of the Soviet Union.
Computer OEMs and industry groups immediately hailed the move as a long overdue recognition that exports of high-performance PCs widely available on the global market are almost impossible to control.
A provision in the 1998 Defense Authorization Act requires export control limits be set for high-performance computer shipments to so-called Tier 3 countries, which include the former Communist bloc countries, as well as India, Pakistan, and most of the Middle East.
The White House proposed that the controls mandated for hardware be lifted, although curbs would be continued for some high-performance software.
A U.S. computer industry coalition has long pressed for lifting the controls, claiming state-of-the-art PCs openly available on the commercial market exceed the outdated performance limits originally set for supercomputer mainframes. Companies argued that the unilateral U.S. controls only caused U.S. industry to forfeit untold business overseas to foreign rivals, which have no such restrictions.
Even while waiting for the new Congress to consider its proposal, the administration further eased existing controls to the Tier 3 countries by allowing exports of computers under 85,000 million theoretical operations per second (MTOPS), a unique parameter used only by the government.
Industry sources said this would permit shipments of current leading-edge multiprocessor PCs.
At the same time, the White House eliminated all export licensing requirements for the rest of the world. Strict controls will still be maintained on shipments to a select group of nations classified as terrorist states.