A Technology Task Force
Democracies’ openness gives them a natural edge over authoritarians in innovation, but today’s challenges cannot be addressed with yesterday’s tools.
The Biden administration and Congress reversed decades of disinvestment, ushering in a new industrial policy -- including the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act -- and building on Trump administration export controls to deny Russia and China access to critical technology, while reengaging in the contest with digital authoritarians over internet governance.
GMF Digital is mapping private investments in the United States and Europe spurred on by government-funded grants in the U.S. CHIPS Act and EU Chips Act with the recently published Semiconductor Investment Tracker.
However, this ambitious industrial policy strategy faces accusations of protectionism from allies, coordination challenges, and fears that public investment will “crowd out” private investment. In its The New American Foreign Policy of Technology report, part of its Modern Industrial Policy Project, GMF Digital proposes three new initiatives to meet these challenges and engage allies and stakeholders in this new industrial policy: a Digital Policy Lab, a Technology Task Force, and building on the Declaration for the Future of the Internet.
This note details the critical role that a Technology Task Force would play.
Technology Task Force
Securing critical minerals needed to meet digital and clean energy transitions has become a top priority on the transatlantic policy agenda. Ensuring reliable supply of inputs like the silicon needed for semiconductor manufacturing will require significant increases in reserves and production capacity from a variety of sources to meet rapidly increasing demand. According to European Commission projections, the global demand for silicon will grow 12-fold by 2050.
But the geopolitical risks and chokepoints within the global supply chains developed over decades of laissez-faire globalization represent an enormous challenge. Currently, China dominates the production, refining, and manufacturing of most critical minerals, making diversification of sourcing and reserves crucial. Recent discoveries of lithium and rare earths reserves in Iran and Sweden may alter global supply chains, but if China continues to control production capacity in the supply chain, it will be difficult for the United States and the European Union to compete.
Silicon Production Capacity (Main critical mineral in semiconductors)
To address these risks, calls for “friendshoring” or derisking supply chains have emerged as a growing policy position. The United States and European Union are expected to announce a ‘Critical Minerals Club’ at the fourth Trade and Technology Council meeting in May 2023. While this club and other policy efforts are a good start, a multistakeholder Technology Task Force is needed to ensure long-term supply chain resiliency and coordinate a broad network of allies to meet future demands.
Just as the International Energy Agency was created to respond to OPEC’s oil cartel, the Technology Task Force would deepen cooperation, providing the necessary forum to build resilient supply chains, initially for key industries, such as semiconductors and green tech. Allied countries with significant reserves of critical minerals that are not currently reflected in the global supply chain should be identified and prioritized for diversification efforts. The TTF could build from the OECD’s newly launched Global Forum on Technology and, like the forum, include democracies and other countries willing to cooperate along common values.
A Technology Task Force will foster cooperation through the following functions:
Share trusted supply chain data:
Making available supply and demand data for planning purposes
Sharing information on product sustainability and security
Responding quickly to shortages or vulnerabilities
Cooperating on targeting subsidies and crafting common responses
Coordinating R&D funding and workforce development initiatives across countries based on global needs.
Providing a platform for countries to reconcile export control policy
Securing technology standards in areas such as 5/6G
Addressing key questions about foreign participation rules and necessary integration of R&D networks
Offering access to supply chains and R&D to build support for cooperation in other multilateral organizations, including the ITU’s standard-setting bodies