Senators introduce bill to increase US technology competitiveness against China

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.)
Greg Nash

Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) on Friday introduced a bill to improve U.S. competitiveness against China and other nations by strengthening the nation’s ability to set standards around emerging technologies. 

The new legislation would create a task force led by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to develop a long-term plan to assess standards around emerging technologies such as 5G and artificial intelligence. 

The task force would include representatives from multiple U.S. federal agencies, who would engage with both academia and the private sector. The ultimate goal would be to create a strategy to engage with international organizations on standards-setting and prevent China from dominating the standards-setting space around emerging technologies. 

There is no House companion bill currently.

A spokesperson for Cortez Masto told The Hill that OSTP had been made aware of the legislation. 

Cortez Masto noted that the legislation could help the U.S. remain an “international leader” in standards setting, which she said in a statement can “determine everything from how software operates on different computers, to the frequencies cell phones use to make calls.”

“This bipartisan legislation would help strengthen our country’s technology industry, make us more competitive economically, and help protect jobs in Nevada and across the country,” Cortez Masto said. 

Portman, who serves as co-chairman of the Senate Artificial Intelligence Caucus and ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, stressed that standards-setting was a “critical” aspect of American global competitiveness. 

“Unfortunately, the United States has fallen behind in terms of participating in many standards setting bodies related to emerging technology, while China’s membership has surged,” Portman said in a separate statement. “This bipartisan legislation will help ensure that standards setting processes remain neutral, industry driven, and focused on sound technical decisions, rather than techno-national protectionism.”

This is not the first effort by the two senators to address concerns around China in the tech space. 

Cortez Masto and Portman last year introduced separate legislation to further protect American research and intellectual property from efforts to steal it by global competitors, which became law last year as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act. 

Intelligence officials have increasingly warned of threats posed by China, with Director of National intelligence Avril Haines describing China at a recent Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats as the “near-peer competitor challenging the United States in multiple arenas.”

The new bill was rolled out as both Congress and the Biden administration have increasingly zeroed in on competition with China and threats posed by the nation to the United States. 

A group of bipartisan lawmakers in the House and Senate introduced the Endless Frontiers Act earlier this month, which would funnel more than $100 billion into boosting U.S. research and deployment of emerging technologies. 

Biden expressed support for the legislation earlier this month, and has made clear the need to stand up to China to ensure U.S. global competitiveness. 

“America is moving — moving forward — but we can’t stop now,” Biden said earlier this week during his first address to a joint session of Congress. “We’re in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century. We’re at a great inflection point in history.”

Tags American competitiveness Avril Haines Catherine Cortez Masto China competition with China Emerging technologies international standards Rob Portman Technology
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