The European Commission is looking to screen outbound investments and export controls – to stop prized technology being used by China and other possible military rivals.
Top EU officials will present their Economic Security Strategy on Tuesday as EU lawmakers and national leaders are set to discuss relations with China in Brussels next week.
While not a formal legislative proposal, the “communication” will lay out strategies the 27-nation EU should consider as it seeks to “de-risk” from China and avoid sensitive technology leaking out through exports or investments abroad.
The Commission will need to tread carefully because granting of export licences and weighing security interests are national competences that EU governments will want to retain.
A Dutch plan that effectively bars Chinese companies from buying the most advanced lithography tools of ASML, which are used to make semiconductors, is a case in point.
The Dutch acted alone, but wanted restrictions throughout the EU. EU officials point out there is no clear way to do this.
The EU does control exports of specified “dual-use” goods that can have military applications, but this does not cover emerging technologies.
“EU member states are not ready to hand over export controls as a whole but we will probably see something more along the lines of greater cooperation,” an EU diplomat said.
EU diplomats say the bloc must determine carefully what risks it wants to limit and establish that they cannot be contained by existing measures.
The Commission could suggest also some form of screening of foreign students planning to study in technical fields, for which the Dutch are considering legislation.
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard