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EU seeks to protect sensitive technology from Chinese buyers

Nature

The EU on Tuesday unveiled a list of sensitive technologies that Brussels says should be kept out of reach of rivals, as the bloc takes new steps to confront China’s aggressive trade policies.

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3 minutes

Brussels is building a trade arsenal to protect itself – including a tool to punish nations that seek to pressure member states.

The European Commission has published a list of four of the most critical technologies that it believes Europe needs to monitor more carefully because they can potentially harm the bloc’s security when in the wrong hands.

These are advanced semiconductors used in many electrical products, artificial intelligence including cloud computing, quantum technologies and biotechnologies including genetic modification techniques.

The European Parliament also gave final approval to a mechanism that would allow the bloc to impose tariffs, restrict investments and limit access to public markets for countries seen as engaging in economic blackmail.

It is a response to a dispute with China over trade restrictions imposed on EU member Lithuania after it strengthened ties with Taiwan.


China appears worried about the gradual deterioration of its relations with the EU in recent years.

The public English-language newspaper The China Daily published on Tuesday a lengthy interview with Asko Aho, who was Prime Minister of Finland from 1991 to 1995, at a time when relations between the EU and China were shifting into high gear and foreign investment was booming.

Aho argues that a “decoupling” of the Chinese and European economies could have negative effects on the global economy, pointing out that his country and China have both benefited from globalization in recent decades.

And the World Timean English-language newspaper that reflects the official line of the Chinese Communist Party, said in an editorial that a “frank and sincere dialogue between China and the EU” was urgently needed on economic and trade issues.

MEPs questioned Dombrovskis on Tuesday about the EU’s relations with Beijing following his visit to China last month.

During his trip, he raised the issue of Europe’s growing trade deficit with China, which he said had reached 400 billion euros.

Executive Vice President and European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis (left) and Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng arrive at a press conference during the tenth China-EU High-level Economic and Trade Dialogue at the guest house Diaoyutai State Hall in Beijing, September 25, 2023. AFP – PEDRO PARDO

Although the European Union says it seeks to maintain dialogue with Beijing, Brussels has stepped up efforts to restrict essential trade with China.

This is part of a strategy of “risk reduction” but not “decoupling” from China, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

She has repeatedly stressed the need for Europe to produce more on the continent and work with friendlier countries to ensure “economic security”, a phrase often used since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. ‘last year.

After Moscow’s invasion, the EU had to quickly find new energy sources after an over-reliance on Russian oil and gas.

Hunting for raw materials

In June, von der Leyen said the EU was studying a “limited and restricted set of cutting-edge technologies,” adding: “Here we want to make sure that they do not improve the military capabilities of certain countries of concern.”

EU officials have previously raised concerns that Europe does not have its own means of assessing which technology exports could harm the bloc.

There is no direct mention of China, but the objective of the stricter measures is clear.

The Commission is working on a proposal on foreign investment that could restrict foreign financing of European companies.

The country is already preparing a law aimed at reducing its dependence on China for critical raw materials, used to make products like electric cars.

China already decided in July to restrict access to two rare metals – gallium and germanium – essential for the manufacture of semiconductors.

In its latest salvo against China, Brussels last month opened an investigation into Chinese subsidies for electric cars after claiming they led to unfair competition in the European market.

The investigation has raised fears of a trade war with Beijing, as the EU could decide to impose tariffs on Chinese electric cars above the standard EU rate of 10% if it agrees to existence of unfair practices.



Nature
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