WASHINGTON—The Japanese buy infrared, optical lasers from the American firm of Spectra-Physics for the cutting, welding and heat treating of various manufactured products. But each time any of its lasers need servicing or spare parts, Spectra-Physics has to navigate the slow and complex U.S. export licensing procedure that was created for another purpose, namely, to ensure that certain types of advanced technology do not pass to the Soviet Union and its allies.

Although the San Jose-based company usually manages to satisfy its customers, said President Herbert Dwight Jr., the export controls have hurt its relationship with some clients and cost it additional sales in Japan and throughout Europe. "I support the need to deny the Soviets access to critical technology," said Dwight, an electrical engineer who founded the company in 1961. "But by doing it unilaterally we're shooting ourselves in the foot. And in the process we're restricting trade with...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!
Already a member?