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Senators introduce legislation to reassert U.S. leadership in technology strategy, development

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A bipartisan group led by Mark Warner and Bob Menendez has introduced legislation to develop a partnership and strategy among democratic countries to compete against growing technological strength and influence of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Democracy Technology Partnership Act would establish a U.S. interagency office at the State Department, tasked with creating a partnership among democratic countries to help set international standards and norms, conduct joint research, and coordinate export controls and investment screening on emerging and critical technologies.

Warner (D-VA), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, were joined in introducing the measure by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Cornyn (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Todd Young (R-IN),

“The Chinese Communist Party is working to surpass the U.S. technologically and economically and to export their technologies globally. In order to compete and counter the expansion of Chinese dominance in critical technology sectors, we need to create a strategy that leverages the power of American partnerships to protect and advance our technological edge,” Warner said. “This bipartisan legislation will help foster partnerships among the U.S. and like-minded democratic countries to better protect and compete against China in critical emerging technologies while helping set global rules, standards, and protocols for the market.”

“After four years of consistent failure under the Trump administration, one of our most important challenges will be to forge a coherent new national security strategy, particularly on cybersecurity and emerging technology, led by our values, centered on our democratic allies and partners, and implemented with consistency,” Menendez said. “The Democracy Technology Partnership Act is a bipartisan recognition that we have entered a new era of technology and geo-economic strategic competition with Beijing, and an acknowledgement that we will not overcome this challenge without technology partnerships and shared human ingenuity. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to invest in a broad diplomatic and security architecture that restores our nation’s position as the world’s greatest innovator and allows us to actually outperform China.”

Leadership and competitiveness in emerging and critical technologies will determine the political, economic, and military strength of countries in the 21st century. Currently, the People’s Republic of China is using every tool in its arsenal to achieve dominance in key technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors and more. Its approach to technology includes heavily subsidizing Chinese companies, investing extensively in research and development, incentivizing foreign countries to adopt its technologies, leveraging international standard-setting bodies to advance its vision, imposing unfair restrictions on foreign companies, and accessing technologies through illicit means.

Simply put, the U.S. cannot counter these practices or compete with the PRC and other authoritarian governments on its own. To compete against these technological advancements, the Democracy Technology Partnership Act would establish an interagency office at the U.S. Department of State to lead in the creation of a new partnership among the world’s tech-leading democracies. The partnership between the democratic countries would ensure that these technologies advance democratic institutions, norms, and values, contributing to global peace and prosperity.

Specifically, the interagency office would be responsible for:

  • Creating a technology-based partnership of democratic countries to develop harmonized technology governance regimes and to fill gaps on specific technologies;
  • Identifying existing, and when needed, new multilateral mechanisms to advance the objectives of the Technology Partnership;
  • Coordinating with such countries regarding shared technology strategies; and
  • Developing strategies to provide alternatives to countries who are at risk of acquiring technologies from authoritarian regimes.

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