President Joe Biden has urged his administration to pay close attention to incoming investment deals involving critical technologies such as semiconductors, as part of ongoing efforts to counter security threats from China.
Biden on Thursday issued an executive order aimed at strengthening scrutiny of deals involving foreign companies in high-tech industries such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and biotechnology. It was targeting the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an interagency committee that screens inward investment for security risks.
Janet Yellen, the US Treasury secretary who chairs Operation Cfius, said the executive order would increase the government’s focus on protecting national security while maintaining an open investment policy.
“Strengthening our supply chains and protecting against external threats enhances our national security,” Yellen said. “It also reaffirms Cfius’ mission to protect US technology leadership and the security of our citizens’ sensitive data from emerging threats.”
The request did not mention China by name. However, the industries mentioned are very similar to the list of high-tech sectors that the United States believes are an important target for Chinese espionage, including Beijing’s legal efforts to secure access to the latest technology, such as takeovers that can be used later. to threaten the United States.
US intelligence agencies, led by the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, last year launched a campaign to inform companies of links between Chinese companies and the country’s government, military and intelligence services. This effort has focused on artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, and autonomous chips and systems.
During a recent visit to London for talks with British intelligence and security officials, FBI Director Christopher Wray warned British companies that China and its espionage activities pose a more serious threat to Western companies than even sophisticated companies realize.
The command Cfius did not grant any new powers. But a senior US official said it would send “a very clear public message to the private sector in a way that often the day-to-day work of the committee can’t revolve around some of the factors that we do . . . focus on.”
In the matter, Biden said Cfius officials should consider the impact of the deal on the resilience of critical US supply chains, which has been one of his administration’s priorities.
The White House is also considering an executive order to create a screening mechanism for US foreign investment, just one of many efforts that make it difficult for China to obtain the latest technology.
“We are looking at gaps in our existing toolkit, including whether it is appropriate or appropriate to consider some targeted and scope-specific requirements around . . . certain types of US investment in foreign competitor countries.
While Cfius examines incoming investment deals on a case-by-case basis, a second US official said the executive order is meant to emphasize that the commission should also consider patterns that indicate security threats.
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