Senator Hawley questions national security expert on U.S. companies engaging in technology transfer agreements with China in Armed Services Committee hearing

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

In his first open Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Senator Josh Hawley questioned Ely Ratner, Executive Vice President and Director of Studies at the Center for a New American Security, on whether U.S. tech companies should be signing onto sensitive technology transfer agreements with Chinese firms.

Watch the full exchange here:

SASC Tech Transfer Agreements Screen Cap 

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HAWLEY: You talk about the need to embrace not just confrontation but competitiveness with China. Some of the things I’m concerned about, you also point out that China has embraced a model of high-tech authoritarianism, which seems exactly right to me. We’re all familiar or hopefully familiar with the fact that China is requiring these technology transfer agreements with companies, U.S. companies, doing business there and just looking at some headlines from this past year: Apple has now signed onto these technology transfer agreements putting sensitive encryption keys in China, Facebook giving data access to Chinese firms that have been flagged by U.S. intelligence, Google – patent agreements with Chinese firms. Should we be concerned about these technology transfer requirements on the Chinese side and should we perhaps consider preventing these in the law?

RATNER: It’s an important question and I think the answer is on a case-by-case basis but I do think that the way forward here is not to wag our finger here and ask these companies to act in the national interest but to set boundaries on their behavior and if there are instances where these companies are transferring technologies that have important security or future technological implications for American competitiveness then certainly the U.S. government should consider new export controls.