SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 26 February 2024, Monday |

US-China science pact renewal ‘not a given’ -US envoy

While the historic scientific collaboration agreement needed to be upgraded, there was no guarantee that a new one would be signed, according to U.S. Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns, who announced on Friday that he had begun discussions with Beijing on the subject.

The U.S. government’s charges that China is stealing American scientific and commercial innovations have heightened the controversy surrounding the renewal of the U.S.-China Science and Technology Agreement (STA), the first agreement between the two nations inked in 1979 following the official establishing of diplomatic ties.

The U.S. State Department in August sought a six-month extension to the pact that was set to expire that month in order to negotiate strengthened provisions with Beijing, which has eagerly expressed its desire for renewal.

Burns told an audience at Washington’s Brookings Institution that the agreement was the “bedrock” of U.S.-China cooperation, but it did not account for advances such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, machine learning and quantum mathematics.

“I met with the new (Chinese) minister of science and technology just a couple of weeks ago in Beijing and we are beginning a discussion with them on whether or not to extend it, to have a new agreement, and what would be the issues involved, and I think it’s complicated,” Burns said.

“We put down our expectations that it had to be modernized, that it’s not a given that we’re going to agree. I think that both sides agree on that,” he said, adding that negotiations would proceed over the “next couple of months.”

U.S. proponents of renewing the deal argue that without it the U.S. would lose valuable insight into China’s technological advances.

However, some Republicans in the U.S. Congress have said it should be scrapped, citing concerns about industrial espionage, forced technology transfers and other tactics that could fuel China’s military modernization.

Many analysts say at the very least the agreement must be reworked to safeguard U.S. innovation in a time of heightened strategic competition with China.

U.S. President Joe Biden and China’s leader Xi Jinping agreed at a summit in San Francisco in November to step up communication between their two governments after diplomatic relations sank to their lowest point earlier in the year, but the countries remain geopolitical rivals.

    Source:
  • Reuters