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US Has 'Great Momentum' Toward New Export Control Regime, BIS Leader Says

Bureau of Industry and Security Undersecretary Alan Estevez this week again stressed the importance of building a new multilateral export control regime, saying that’s one of his priorities as he begins his tenure at BIS. The U.S. and its allies need a new regime “for the 21st century,” Estevez said, specifically one that isn’t only limited to dual-use technologies. “We need to work with our partners on that,” hr said during a June 14 virtual conference hosted by the Center for a New American Security. “We have a great coalition and great momentum, and I intend to do that.”

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Estevez first spoke about a new control regime in May, calling it his top long-term priority (see 2205250037). Speaking to CNAS, Extevez said the U.S. realizes that multilateral controls are much more preferable to unilateral restrictions, which can risk hurting the competitiveness of U.S. companies if foreign nations also supply the technology subject to the control.

“The reality is for export controls to work, they have to be done on a multilateral basis unless the U.S. is the only technological supplier,” Estevez said. “And for most cases in today's world, that is not the case.” The U.S. and its allies each have different technological “advantages,” Estevez said, and they should work together to ensure trade continues to flow between responsible democracies. “We have to put our controls on those technologies together, because if one country is doing it with their own mercantile interests, and others are not,” he said, “we're all at a disadvantage.”

While the regime should focus on technology “initially,” Estevez said its scope should eventually be expanded. “There's probably some other spaces that we want to work into the regime,” he said. Others have also called for a new regime, saying it should include a range of technology-producing nations that share democratic values to address the modern technology proliferation issues that the existing regimes cannot (see 2205240039).

Some believe a new export control regime could also help the U.S. and its allies better counter Beijing amid U.S.-China tech competition (see 2206100021). Estevez said determining the “right controls to put on China” has been one of his top challenges so far at BIS.

“It's about having China operate within the rules of engagement of the international community,” Estevez said, adding that China must stop “stealing intellectual property” and its other “coercive behavior.” More cooperation with allies could help prevent China from acquiring technologies for “human rights abuses,” Estevez said, such as surveillance tools to monitor ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

“We can’t allow our technology or the technology of our allies to be used for that,” Estevez said. “Working with our allies on those balances is frankly a challenge. However, I think we have great momentum. We do have like-minded nations to work with.”