A decades-old science and technology agreement between China and the US, that has become a matter of debate in Washington, may be extended by six months.
The State Department said on Wednesday it was looking to briefly extend the Science and Technology Agreement (STA) so it can negotiate with Beijing and “strengthen” the pact amid an ongoing tech and trade war.
“This short-term six-month extension will keep the agreement in force while we seek authority to undertake negotiations to amend and strengthen the terms of the STA. It does not commit the United States to a longer-term extension,” a State Department spokesperson said.
China’s embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Chinese officials have previously expressed a desire to extend the deal.
In Washington, however, Republicans have been lobbying for the deal to be scrapped, citing concerns about industrial espionage, forced technology transfers and other tactics that could fuel China’s military modernization.
Republican US representatives Andy Barr said he was disappointed that the Biden administration was looking to re-enter the agreement despite the “grave concerns” it poses.
New law proposed to increase STA oversight
Barr along with other Republican representatives Neal Dunn and Rob Wittman proposed a bill this week that would require congressional notification for any such deal with China. All three are members of the US House of Representatives’ select committee on China.
If the bill becomes law, the State Department would need to provide Congress with assessments of security risks, technology transfers and the US ability to monitor China’s commitments within a set number of days or any agreement would be revoked.
“I look forward to advancing my legislation before the six-month extension period requested by the State Department expires to ensure Congress has vigorous oversight of any ongoing or future science and technology agreements between the US and the CCP (Chinese Communist Party),” Barr said.
Proponents of renewing the deal argue that without it, the US would lose valuable insight into China’s technical advances.
The US State Department said the deal provides consistent standards for government scientific cooperation, and if it lapsed each agency would have to negotiate individual arrangements with Beijing.
“We are clear-eyed to the challenges posed by (China’s) national strategies on science and technology, Beijing’s actions in this space, and the threat they pose to US national security and intellectual property, and are dedicated to protecting the interests of the American people,” the department’s spokesperson said.
The landmark deal, signed when Beijing and Washington established diplomatic ties in 1979, needs to be renewed about every five years. It is currently set to expire later this week on August 27.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena