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EU outlines strategy on tech standards to counter China influence

The EU this week proposed a new aggressive strategy in setting global tech standards, which the bloc’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said was a bid to counter China's rising influence.

EU outlines strategy on tech standards to counter China influence
Margrethe Vestager: “It’s really, really important who sets the standards.” Photograph: Guillaume Perigois on Unsplash.

She told the Financial Times that the strategy was to ensure that Europe led the way in setting international tech benchmarks guiding the development of everything from environmental innovations to facial recognition systems.

She told the FT: "This is strategic. It’s really, really important who sets the standards because they should enable a market to work, but not to make innovation difficult." She said the EU wanted to implement the plan “as fast as possible”.

The EU’s tough rules on tech products entering the internal single market has meant that companies globally have had to adopt the bloc’s approach to regulating products and services.

China, however, seeks to supplant the EU’s dominance in setting standards whether it be through lobbying key international bodies such as the International Telecommunication Union and the International Electrotechnical Commission, or through tech advances such as those made by Huawei.

The EU’s new plans envision the bloc working with the US authorities to establish a new monitoring system on emerging standards with the goal of establishing universal tech standards.

EU and US officials will meet regularly via the Trade and Technology Council to finalise the details on how the operation will work.

“When you work from a standard that is your benchmark and if that standard is set in a vibrant, democratic market economy, you get one [global] standard that will work,” Vestager said.

China has produced an alternative set of regulations, “China Standards 2035”, setting global standards in fields such as Artificial Intelligence and 5G.

The EU has developed draft proposals, seen by the FT, to counter these moves by “urgently” developing standards for environmental challenges and important technologies.

“Europe’s competitiveness, technological sovereignty and promotion of EU values, highest social and environmental ambitions will depend on how successful European actors are at international level,” the document stated.

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