Ricketts Leads 15 Colleagues to Introduce Bill to Strengthen Oversight of U.S.-China Science and Technology Agreements
September 21, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today,U.S. Senator Pete Ricketts (R-NE), a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, led fifteen colleagues to introduce the “Science 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. Ricketts’ bill was co-sponsored by Ranking Member of the Committee on Senate Foreign Relations 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), Ted Budd (R-NC), and Mitt Romney (R-UT).
“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.”
“The global threat environment has significantly changed since 1979,” said Senator Fischer. “Today, China is a strategic competitor of the United States with a formidable nuclear arsenal and a willingness to steal U.S. scientific and commercial achievements. I’m glad to join Senator Ricketts in introducing this bill, which will improve congressional oversight of the administration’s actions managing these negotiations with China.”
“For the Chinese Communist Party, the line between civilian and military research is non-existent,” said Senator Tim Scott. “When a Chinese surveillance balloon violated our sovereignty using American technology, we witnessed how the Science and Technology Agreement between our two nations could be used against us. I’ve said time and time again, this agreement is a threat to our national security. The Biden administration must ensure that scientific collaboration does not jeopardize our interests or enable an adversary to advance its malign agenda. I’m honored to continue this fight alongside my Senate colleagues.”
“The Biden Administration continues to fail to protect our technology from China. Safeguarding America’s technological edge is paramount,” said Senator Rubio. “The Science and Technology Agreement Enhanced Congressional Notification Act underscores our commitment to transparency and accountability in agreements with China. We must ensure that any collaboration serves our national security interests and upholds our nation’s values.”
“It is simply common sense that proper Congressional oversight be conducted over any science and technology agreement the United States makes with the Chinese Communist Party. The CCP is our greatest geopolitical and national security threat, and everything they do is as our adversary,” said Senator Britt. “The FBI has said that they open a new counterintelligence case against China about twice per day. From stealing our intellectual property and spying on our children through TikTok, to buying up American farmland and engaging in unfair trade practices that undercut Alabama steel makers and shrimpers, we must hold the CCP accountable. We accomplish this through strength, not continued weakness.”
“Communist China has already exploited U.S. taxpayer-funded research to undermine our national security, but President Biden is continuing to allow the CCP access to our military and technological research,” said Senator Ernst. “I’m providing a critical check on his efforts to extend the U.S. China Science and Technology Agreement to ensure that the Biden administration is making China abide by our rules. We must hold the CCP accountable for its malign intentions, not bow to Beijing.”
“Entering into scientific and technological agreements with China without significant Congressional oversight not only serves American innovation on a silver platter to one of our greatest adversaries but seriously jeopardizes our national security,” said Senator Lummis. “The Biden administration has proven it is unwilling to stand up to China, and until this administration grows a backbone, my Republican colleagues and I will fight for oversight to protect the American people.”
“In this new era of authoritarian aggression, it’s imperative that we do more to counter risks from the unfair economic practices and intellectual property theft being carried out by adversaries like the Chinese Communist Party,” said Senator Budd. “I want to thank Senator Ricketts for his leadership in this effort to ensure Congress has the tools needed to do our due diligence in providing more oversight over these scientific and technological agreements with China that could put our national security at risk.”
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. Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
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 U.S.
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.