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BIS Planning New Emerging Tech Controls, Preparing for Virtual Wassenaar Meetings, Official Says

The Bureau of Industry and Security is planning to issue another set of emerging technology controls this year and hopes to propose them for multilateral control in 2022, said Matt Borman, BIS’s acting assistant secretary for export administration. Borman also said he hopes BIS can fall into a more predictable “sequence” for its emerging and foundational technology control effort and move past last year’s disruptions to multilateral regimes caused by the pandemic.

BIS expected to push through multiple multilateral controls at the Wassenaar Arrangement’s 2020 plenary -- an international export control forum held every December -- but country representatives couldn’t meet because of COVID-19-related travel restrictions (see 2011090045 and 2004290044). As a result, some BIS proposals were delayed and have been rolled over to this year, and the agency is hoping to propose them at Wassenaar in December, Borman said during a March 19 Emerging Technology Technical Advisory Committee meeting.

Although Wassenaar “unfortunately” made “no progress” last year, Borman said the regime will hold virtual discussions to prepare for the 2021 plenary and has scheduled its first experts group meeting for “later this spring.” He said BIS plans to share the proposals with its technical advisory committees “relatively soon” to get their input. “We want to make sure that the regime discussions are as informed as possible,” he said.

The agency is also working on a new set of emerging technology controls in addition to the ones rolled over from last year, and hopes to release those for public comment this year. Borman said those will likely be proposed at Wassenaar’s 2022 plenary. The “ideal scenario” is to publish those proposed rules for public comment “during the course of this year, so that we can tee them up early next year” for Wassenaar, Borman said. “That's the sequencing I'd like to get us into.”

He also said the agency is still “digesting” feedback on its foundational technology pre-rule (see 2008260045), which closed for comments last year. Several major technology companies and universities cautioned BIS about proposing overly broad restrictions over foundational technologies and urged the agency to pursue multilateral controls (see 2012230069 and 2012020044). Borman said the agency plans to follow that strategy for both emerging and foundational controls. “The goal would be to identify some potential controls, propose rules, get public comment and then, as appropriate, go to the relevant multilateral export control regime,” he said.