March 04, 2021

Bipartisan Senators Introduce Legislation to Reassert Democratic Leadership in Technology Strategy & Development

Would create an interagency office focused on developing a technology partnership among democratic countries to counter Chinese dominance in 5G, AI, quantum computing, and more

WASHINGTONU.S. Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, along with Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.), today introduced legislation to develop a partnership and strategy among democratic countries to compete against growing technological strength and influence by the Chinese Communist Party and other authoritarian regimes. 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.

“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,” said Sen. Menendez. “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.” 

“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,” said Sen. Warner. “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.”

“Both Democrats and Republicans know that competing with China is one of the biggest challenges in the 21st Century,” said Majority Leader Schumer. “For years, I have been committed to confronting the Chinese government for cheating and stealing its way to economic growth. That’s why I am proud to help champion the bipartisan Democracy Technology Partnership Act, which will give like-minded democracies the edge needed to compete with the Chinese Communist Party. This initiative is an important next step in our mission to boost American competitiveness, leverage our alliances abroad and fight China’s predatory practices.”

“It’s no secret the Chinese Communist Party wants to reshape the emerging technology landscape to benefit their authoritarian aims. It is essential that the United States and our like-minded democratic allies around the world work together to set global standards that uphold our universal values,” said Sen. Young. “This bipartisan legislation marks a significant step forward for the United States in our ongoing effort to out-compete China and I look forward to working with my colleagues to see this passed into law.”

“Winning the long-term tech race with the Chinese Communist Party is foundational to our strategic relevance in the world. Chairman Xi has laid out an ambitious plan to displace the United States as the world’s preeminent superpower and install his version of techno-authoritarianism in its place. The United States cannot meet this challenge alone and must lead our freedom-loving allies and partners to craft creative solutions to our shared technological challenges. This bill is a good step towards that goal,” said Sen. Sasse.

“It’s critical for democracies around the world to collaborate in research and development as well as manufacturing of advanced technologies to compete against China,” said Sen. Rubio. “Too many nations fall prey to the trap of incentives associated with Chinese tech that only results in lost privacy, reduced autonomy, and greater dependence on Beijing.  The U.S. must lead likeminded countries in establishing and supporting alternatives that are safer and technologically more advanced.  I hope this bill will push the Administration to lead in this space.”   

“The Chinese Communist Party is working rapidly and strategically to dominate in technologies that will underpin our economic and national security, and to export its illiberal technology across the globe,” said Sen. Bennet. “America’s competitiveness and security require an international technology strategy that leads with our values and allies. This bipartisan approach will empower the United States and our democratic partners to compete with China and set the rules of the road for next generation technologies.”

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 (PRC) 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.

The criteria for participation in the global partnership – as laid out by the legislation – requires that the country be a democratic national government with a strong commitment to democratic values, have an economy with advanced technology sectors, and have a demonstrated record of interest or expressed interest in international cooperation and coordination with the U.S. on defense and intelligence issues.

In addition, the Democracy Technology Partnership Act creates a $5 billion International Technology Partnership Fund to support joint research projects between government research agencies, universities, technology companies and other businesses from partner countries, as well as to make technology investments in third-country markets. The legislation also creates a Public-Private Board, called the International Technology Partnership Advisory Board, made up of individuals with demonstrated expertise in the fields of emerging technologies and international trade to provide advice and recommendations to the Technology Partnership Office and on the bill’s implementation.

“I commend Senators Warner and Menendez for this bold new legislation, which will help ensure that democratic values and partnerships are at the center of America’s strategy to win the global technology competition. The new Technology Partnership they are proposing would be a powerful diplomatic tool to counter authoritarian influence. It would also promote new avenues of cooperation between democratic nations to secure a better future for us all,” said Madeline Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State.

“The Technology Partnership, as proposed by Senators Warner, Menendez, Cornyn, Young, Sasse, and Schumer, is a worthy initiative, rightly identifying the most important challenge facing the United States for the next decade.  The legislation wisely creates a multilateral mechanism for the United States to coordinate with like-minded, democratic countries to counter and compete with the People’s Republic of China.  As the PRC works to dominate critical emerging technologies, essential to U.S. military, political and economic strength, democracies must come together to coordinate technology policy that reflects democratic values,” said Stephen J. Hadley, former U.S. National Security Advisor.

“The Democracy Technology Partnership Act outlines an important vision and strategic plan for how the United States should collaborate with allies and friends on a technology strategy which promotes and protects our common interests.  Its placement at the State Department, with interagency representatives and a public-private board, ensures that the effort will be a key part of America’s global diplomatic strategy, tapping into the great talent available across the U.S. government and in the private sector.  This is an innovative approach to one of the toughest challenges facing the United States and our community of democracies,” said Ambassador Marc Grossman, Vice Chairman of the Cohen Group, former Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs.

“The United States’ leadership in technology and innovation is at risk, as the PRC works to surpass the US in technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and data science, quantum information systems, biotechnology, 5G, and semiconductor technologies. The United States needs a national strategy for innovation, and this legislation outlines an essential element in that larger strategy: a coalition of democratic countries to coordinate on defense of technologies, set standards, and develop common policies for emerging technologies,” said Admiral William H. McRaven, U.S. Navy (Retired).  

A copy of the bill section-by-section can be found here. A two-page summary can be found here. A copy of the bill text can be found here.

Sen. Warner, a former telecommunications executive, has been a leading voice on issues related to the national security challenges facing the United States as a result of China’s growing power and influence. Last week, Sen. Warner participated in a bipartisan meeting with President Biden on securing U.S. supply chains for critical and essential goods to help counter China’s efforts to expand its influence and economic power. Sen. Warner has also successfully pushed for the inclusion of his bipartisan Utilizing Strategic Allied (USA) Telecommunications Act in the FY21 defense bill to encourage and support U.S. innovation in the race for 5G dominance.

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