Former national security officials warn antitrust bills could help China in tech race

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A group of former top national security officials on Wednesday issued a call for Congress to conduct additional reviews on a series of antitrust bills targeting tech giants, which they argued would harm U.S. companies and give China the upper hand in the tech race. 

In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and first obtained by Axios, the ex-officials said that “more deliberate analysis is needed” for the antitrust bills advanced by the House Judiciary Committee in June “to examine the detrimental impact these bills could have on our strategic competition with China.” 

“Congress should not proceed with current legislative proposals before understanding the full range of potential consequences,” added the group, which included former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats. 

The officials specifically took issue with “provisions in these bills that target a narrow group of U.S. companies without requiring similar oversight of Chinese tech giants such as Huawei, Tencent, Baidu, and Alibaba,” which they asserted “would place these already formidable competitors in a better position to assume global preeminence.” 

“For this reason, we believe Congress should establish a congressional study that works collaboratively with the Administration and other stakeholders on both protecting American innovation and developing a comprehensive strategy to counter the growing challenge posed by China and its authoritarian approach to digital governance,” the former officials added. 

The group said that looking into the bills more extensively would “allow the U.S. to develop a long-term plan to strategically compete against the rising power of Beijing.” 

“The current effort to regulate the U.S.’s largest technology companies should not be done at the expense of U.S. economic and national security,” they argued. 

The other signatories to the letter included John Negroponte, former deputy director of State and former director of national intelligence, as well as Richard Ledgett, former deputy director of the National Security Agency. 

While the group of antitrust bills advanced earlier this year received bipartisan support, they also drew criticism from Democrats and Republicans, including some who raised questions on whether Microsoft would be included within the scope of a bill, known as the Access Act, which would implement interoperability and data portability requirements. 

The measures have also received pushback from tech companies, which have expressed concerns that the bills would make it easier for enforcement agencies to break up American tech giants. 

The Hill has reached out to the offices of Pelosi and McCarthy for comment.

Tags Alibaba Axios Baidu Big tech China China competitiveness China tech companies Dan Coats Huawei Kevin McCarthy Microsoft Nancy Pelosi tech giant Tencent the national security agency

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