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Rubio, Bipartisan Senators Introduce Legislation to Reassert Democratic Leadership in Technology Strategy & Development

Mar 5, 2021 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Cornyn (R-TX), Ben Sasse (R-NE), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced legislation to develop a partnership and strategy among democratic countries to compete against growing technological strength and influence by the Chinese Communist Party and other authoritarian regimes. The Democracy Technology Partnership Act would establish a U.S. interagency office at the State Department, tasked with creating a partnership among democratic countries to help set international standards and norms, conduct joint research, and coordinate export controls and investment screening on emerging and critical technologies.
“It’s critical for democracies around the world to collaborate in research and development as well as manufacturing of advanced technologies to compete against China,” Rubio said. “Too many nations fall prey to the trap of incentives associated with Chinese tech, which only results in lost privacy, reduced autonomy, and greater dependence on Beijing.  The U.S. must lead like-minded countries in establishing and supporting alternatives that are safer and technologically more advanced.  I hope this bill will push the Administration to lead in this space.”   
For a full list of cosponsor quotes, click here
Leadership and competitiveness in emerging and critical technologies will determine the political, economic, and military strength of countries in the 21st century. Currently, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is using every tool in its arsenal to achieve dominance in key technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, semiconductors, and more. Its approach to technology includes heavily subsidizing Chinese companies, investing extensively in research and development, incentivizing foreign countries to adopt its technologies, leveraging international standard-setting bodies to advance its vision, imposing unfair restrictions on foreign companies, and accessing technologies through illicit means.
Simply put, the U.S. cannot counter these practices or compete with the PRC and other authoritarian governments on its own. To compete against these technological advancements, the Democracy Technology Partnership Act would establish an interagency office at the U.S. Department of State to lead in the creation of a new partnership among the world’s tech-leading democracies. The partnership between the democratic countries would ensure that these technologies advance democratic institutions, norms, and values, contributing to global peace and prosperity. 
Specifically, the interagency office would be responsible for:

  • Creating a technology-based partnership of democratic countries to develop harmonized technology governance regimes and to fill gaps on specific technologies;
  • Identifying existing, and when needed, new multilateral mechanisms to advance the objectives of the Technology Partnership;
  • Coordinating with such countries regarding shared technology strategies; and
  • Developing strategies to provide alternatives to countries who are at risk of acquiring technologies from authoritarian regimes.

The criteria for participation in the global partnership – as laid out by the legislation – requires that the country be a democratic national government with a strong commitment to democratic values, have an economy with advanced technology sectors, and have a demonstrated record of interest or expressed interest in international cooperation and coordination with the U.S. on defense and intelligence issues.
In addition, the Democracy Technology Partnership Act creates a $5 billion International Technology Partnership Fund to support joint research projects between government research agencies, universities, technology companies and other businesses from partner countries, as well as to make technology investments in third-country markets. The legislation also creates a Public-Private Board, called the International Technology Partnership Advisory Board, made up of individuals with demonstrated expertise in the fields of emerging technologies and international trade to provide advice and recommendations to the Technology Partnership Office and on the bill’s implementation.