(Adds more from letter, background on issue)
By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON, June 15 (Reuters) – A group of 10 Republican U.S. senators on Tuesday urged Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to direct her department to work faster to identify new American technologies that China’s government could misuse if exported to that country.
The letter led by Senator Tom Cotton and seen by Reuters urged the department to identify “emerging and foundational technologies” as required under a 2018 law.
“We remain concerned that U.S. businesses export sensitive technologies to ostensibly civilian Chinese firms or accept investment from them only for these Chinese firms to promptly hand over this technology to the Chinese military or intelligence services,” said the letter that was also signed by Marco Rubio, John Cornyn, Ben Sasse, Rick Scott and Todd Young.
The Commerce Department did not immediately comment.
The letter from the senators said Commerce has only produced “a limited set of controlled emerging technologies …So long as these lists remain incomplete and underutilized, the federal government will lack a properly functioning export control system and foreign investment screening process.”
The letter added that “leaves the United States unacceptably vulnerable to China’s economic predation.”
A U.S. congressional advisory report this month said Commerce was failing to do its part to protect national security and keep sensitive technology out of the hands of China’s military.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission report said Commerce had been slow to create a list of sensitive technology that should be scrutinized before export to China.
In response to that report, Commerce said it issued four rules on controls on emerging technologies and more are pending. It noted it expanded the military end user rule and added companies to its entity list restricting U.S. suppliers from selling to companies like Huawei Technologies and Hangzhou Hikvision.
In November 2018, Commerce published 45 examples of emerging technologies, including face and voice recognition, but no list was ever finalized. It has not yet proposed a list of so-called “foundational” technologies as required that year when Congress tightened export policies and the process for screening foreign investment.
At that time, Chinese entities were trying to obtain sensitive U.S. technology and use civilian innovation for the military. The law directed Commerce to work with other agencies to identify emerging, or cutting edge, technologies and so-called foundational technologies essential to making vital items like semiconductors. (Reporting by David Shepardson)