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US committee proposes co-ordinated exports controls on China

Leaders of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee have proposed legislation seeking to counter China’s efforts to develop advanced military technologies.

Among a range of proposed diplomatic and strategic initiatives, the new law – entitled the Strategic Competition Act of 2021 – looks to impede China’s military-technology progression through greater co-operation between the US and its allies.

A key element of the legislation is the call for “enhanced co-ordination and co-operation with allies on arms control in the face of China’s military modernisation and expansion”.

The law also requires greater “reporting on Chinese ballistic, hypersonic glide, and cruise missiles, conventional forces, nuclear, space, cyberspace, and other strategic domains”.

To frame deeper co-operation between the US and allies the law calls for the US to “explore the value” of setting up an agency similar to the Co‐ordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls (COCOM), which was established by Western countries following World War II.

COCOM was intended to align export control policies of Western states to ensure that the Soviet Union and its allies could not gain access to military technologies. The committee became known as the Wassenaar Arrangement in the early 1990s.

Accordingly, the Strategic Competition Act of 2021 proposes that such an export-control agency “would specifically co-ordinate the export of US and European Union sensitive technologies” to China.

In addition, the law calls on the US to engage with the EU on the implementation of US export control reforms and to align related US regulations with EU priorities. Another recommendation is that the US expands the list of dual-use technologies that it restricts for sale to China under the Wassenaar Arrangement.

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