US Senate votes to open debate on China tech Bill

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) – The United States Senate voted 86-11 Monday (May 17) to open debate on a measure authorising more than US$110 billion (S$146.4 billion) for basic and advanced technology research over five years in the face of rising competitive pressure from China.

The Endless Frontier Act would authorise most of the money, US$100 billion, to invest in basic and advanced research, commercialisation of the research, and education and training programs in key technology areas like artificial intelligence (AI).

Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said the Senate will debate the Bill for a week or two beginning on Tuesday.

“We can either have a world where the Chinese Communist Party determines the rules of the road for 5G, AI, and Quantum Computing – or we can make sure the United States gets there first,” Mr Schumer said, calling it a “once-in-a-generation investment in American science and American technology”.

The Bill under consideration includes US$2 billion to boost semiconductor production and research for the auto and defence sector, but a group of senators are also working on a measure to include US$52 billion for chips, according to draft summary of a proposal.

Despite discussions throughout the weekend, no final agreement on funding chips provisions that were authorised in a defence Bill adopted in January have been reached.

Other China-related Bills are likely to be included in a final package.

Mr Schumer said the Bill “will fortify weak spots in our economy like semiconductors”.

The White House said Monday it supports the Endless Frontier Bill that “would authorise historic investments in critical science and engineering research, from artificial intelligence to advanced energy… It would strengthen scientific research and technology commercialisation activities at academic institutions across the country”.

Republican Senator Steve Daines said he will introduce an amendment this week to include critical mineral production as part of a new programme to help the US remain globally competitive.

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