Securing emerging tech requires export controls and international partnerships, officials say

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During a House hearing on Wednesday, witnesses discussed how to ensure sensitive U.S. technologies and data stay away from Beijing.

U.S. diplomatic policy is navigating the protection of emerging technologies and sensitive intellectual property within the Indo-Pacific region largely through supply chain policies and partnership with ally nations, according to testimony at a Wednesday House hearing.

Witnesses before the House Subcommittee on Indo-Pacific shed light on the interagency work to protect U.S. data and technology, while reckoning with China’s influence in both the region and the industry. 

Thea Rozman Kendler, the assistant secretary in the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security Export Administration, said that leveraging export controls is an important method to ensure that officials within the Chinese Communist Party do not access U.S. networks that carry critical information. 

“U.S. export controls have been and will always be most effective when deployed in conjunction with those of governments that share our values,” she said. “As technology evolves, we will protect our national security by coordinating with our closest allies and partners, ensuring that the fruits of advanced technologies are applied to our shared security and prosperity.”

She further elaborated that current U.S. export controls prioritize avoiding commercial interaction with China, particularly surrounding the global supply chain that contributes key ingredients to everyday technologies. 

“We're very focused on our supply chain issues and U.S. technological leadership in the supply chain,” Kendler said. “Our export controls are focused on national security and foreign policy.”

She cited several initiatives within her office, including updating a semiconductor chip rule regarding U.S.-based artificial intelligence systems to ensure that these technologies do not end up working within Chinese military operations. 

Kendler’s office will also be issuing a survey soon about legacy semiconductors to explore the origins of older chips still in operation and ensure they do not threaten national security. 

Multilateral partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region are crucial to ensuring the safe trade and transfer of critical and emerging technologies between the U.S. and partner nations, according to C.S. Eliot Kang, assistant secretary at the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation at the State Department, who described partnerships with like minded nations such as Japan and South Korea, as “huge.”

“We can't go it alone,” Kang said. “So we have to create a community of interest and you have to have common values as well. This is where human rights also comes into play in export controls.”

Concern over technology transfers between the U.S. and China has peaked amid ongoing geopolitical tensions. On Wednesday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released new guidance on mitigating threats related to Chinese-manufactured drones and their potential surveillance of critical infrastructure.