US Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, and US Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican, on Monday urged the US government to swiftly issue rules to make it harder to export sophisticated technologies to China that Beijing can use to boost its military.
A letter by the two senators, seen by Reuters, was addressed to US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
The US Department of Commerce has been tasked by a law passed last year with drafting regulations to toughen export controls for cutting-edge technologies.
To start the process, the department sought public comment in November last year on how best to design so-called emerging technology rules, which could cover anything from artificial intelligence to biotechnology.
However, a year later, the agency has not proposed any rules and has not yet sought input on how to regulate exports of so-called “foundational technologies,” those needed to produce cutting-edge goods.
“We understand the technical challenges of evaluating cutting-edge technologies ... but it is imperative that the department act expeditiously to develop guidance around these technologies to prevent them from being exported to our military competitors,” Schumer and Cotton wrote.
The department has received the letter, a spokesman said.
“The rulemaking process is ongoing, and the Department of Commerce has a number of proposed rules in the review process,” the spokesman said in a statement.
There is a growing chorus of frustration directed at the agency at the heart of the US technology battle with China.
US Representative Michael McCaul, ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, last month penned a letter to Ross calling for swifter action on the rules, saying that China was “sprinting ahead” in the meantime.
In their letter, Schumer and Cotton said China was aiming to acquire US technology with both military and civilian uses — items that are easier to acquire due to some harmless applications, but that can be used in warfare and defense.
“This strategy of ‘Military-Civil Fusion’ is deeply concerning to Congress, as it leads to American businesses unwittingly exporting sensitive technology to our primary military competitor,” they wrote, asking the department to provide an update on the status of the rulemaking efforts.
The department also missed a deadline last month to lay out rules to protect the telecoms supply chain from national security threats.
Separately, US President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday issued a new 90-day extension allowing US firms to continue doing business with China’s Huawei Technologies Co (華為) as US regulators continue crafting rules on telecommunications firms that pose national security risks.
After adding Huawei to an economic blacklist in May due to national security concerns, the department has allowed it to purchase some US-made goods in a series of 90-day license extensions that it says aim to minimize disruption for its customers, many of which operate networks in rural America.
“The Temporary General License extension will allow carriers to continue to service customers in some of the most remote areas of the United States who would otherwise be left in the dark,” Ross said in a statement.
“The Department will continue to rigorously monitor sensitive technology exports to ensure that our innovations are not harnessed by those who would threaten our national security,” Ross said.
Huawei on Monday said that the extension “won’t have a substantial impact on Huawei’s business either way.”
“This decision does not change the fact that Huawei continues to be treated unfairly either,” it said.
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