Australia looks to ring-fence sensitive tech from foreign interference

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia will on Wednesday (Nov 17) announce measures to ring-fence dozens of sensitive technologies from foreign interference, stepping up efforts to safeguard against “national security risks” from China and others.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will unveil a Critical Technologies List at an online forum in Sydney – a step towards limiting what government, industry and universities can and cannot share with foreign counterparts.

The list of 63 critical technologies will include quantum technologies, which are based on the physics of sub-atomic particles, as well as artificial intelligence, drones and vaccines.

The measures aim to “balance the economic opportunities of critical technologies with their national security risks” Mr Morrison will tell a forum organised by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, according to a speech seen by Agence France-Presse.

Australia has become increasingly concerned about the transfer of sensitive technology to foreign military powers, particularly to China, under the guise of academic cooperation.

Canberra has also moved to limit the ability of Chinese state-linked firms to operate critical infrastructure in Australia.

A decision to effectively bar Chinese tech giant Huawei from running Australia’s 5G network was the catalyst for a major diplomatic rift between the two countries, which has frozen high-level diplomatic relations and a raft of sanctions that some have called a “shadow trade war”.

Australia is currently in the process of auctioning off 5G spectrum licences.

Mr Morrison will on Wednesday also list nine critical technologies that will be the focus for investment, hoping the expertise will help “uphold our liberal democratic traditions” in what he describes as an era of strategic competition.

“The simple fact is that nations at the leading edge of technology have greater economic, political and military power,” he will say.

“And, in turn, greater capacity to influence the norms and values that will shape technological development in the years to come.”

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