WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), today joined 15 colleagues, led by Senator Pete Ricketts (R-NE) in introducing theScience and Technology Agreement Enhanced Congressional Notification Act. The bill would strengthen oversight of science and technology agreements (STAs) between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) by requiring the Secretary of State to provide comprehensive details to Congress about any new, renewed, or extended agreement and establishing a minimum 30-day Congressional review period. This transparency and accountability provision includes thorough national security risk assessments, human rights considerations, and consistent monitoring mechanisms.
“We must be clear-eyed that the Chinese Communist Party is on a quest to replace the United States as the world’s economic, military, and geopolitical superpower,” said Senator Romney. “Nearly every decision we make—at every level of government—must be looked at through the lens of our competition with China. Unlike in the U.S., the CCP can compel its businesses and universities to hand over research and technological advancements obtained through research partnerships to promote its military objectives—in turn jeopardizing our national security. Congressional oversight of science and technology agreements between the U.S. and China will help ensure we safeguard our intellectual property and maintain our innovation edge.”
“The Biden administration has failed to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party time and time again,” said Senator Ricketts. “There is no daylight between the Communist regime and the private sector in the People’s Republic of China. The CCP will manipulate or disregard rules to gain technological and military advantages that put our national security at risk. Congressional oversight is necessary before we enter into science and technology agreements with our chief adversary. As the administration attempts to negotiate a stronger agreement, it should have to show its work. This bill would make sure that happens.”
“China has exploited its longstanding research cooperation with the United States to steal technology and support its domestic civil-military fusion objectives, undermining U.S. national security,” said Ranking Member Risch. “At this critical juncture, it’s important for Congress to have more oversight of the process for negotiating the STA. We need to ensure there are sufficient protections for U.S. interests.”
Specifically, the bill prohibits the Secretary of State from renewing or extending the STA until he has provided Congress with at least 30 days to review:
- The full text of the agreement,
- A detailed justification for the STA, including an explanation as to why such agreement is in the national security interests of the United States,
- An assessment of the risks and potential effects of such agreement, including any potential for the transfer under such agreement of technology or intellectual property capable of harming the national security interests of the United States,
- A detailed justification for how the Secretary intends to address human rights concerns in any scientific and technology collaboration proposed to be conducted under such agreement, and
- An assessment of the extent to which the Secretary will be able to continuously monitor the commitments made by the PRC under such agreement.
Upon enactment of this legislation, the Secretary has 60 days to provide Congress with the necessary reporting requirements listed above or any existing STA with the PRC will be revoked. Bill text can be found here. In addition to Romney and Ricketts, this legislation is co-sponsored by Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID) and Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE), Tim Scott (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Katie Britt (R-AL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Todd Young (R-IN), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), James Lankford (R-OK), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Ted Budd (R-NC).
The U.S.-China Science and Technology Agreement, originally signed in 1979 and renewed about every five years since, is the framework that facilitates research cooperation between the governments of the United States and PRC and academic institutions in both countries. The STA was last renewed in 2018 and was set to expire last month. However, the Biden Administration recently extended the STA for another six months.
There are ongoing concerns that research partnerships organized under the STA could strengthen the PRC’s military-industrial complex and be used to develop technologies that could later be used against the United States.
For instance, in 2018, under the STA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) organized a project with China’s Meteorological Administration to launch weather balloons to study the atmosphere. Just a few months ago, similar balloon technology was used to surveil U.S. military sites on U.S. territory.