(Bloomberg) -- The White House is trying to rally allied countries to crack down on surveillance technology employed for alleged human-rights abuses in China and elsewhere.
During President Joe Biden’s summit of global democracies next week, the administration will announce a new initiative to prevent the proliferation of technologies authoritarian countries use to surveil and control their citizens.
The administration has been working for months to coordinate allies on the issue, including Japan, Korea and countries in Europe, but haven’t announced any outcomes from that effort.
Officials on Thursday declined to name which specific countries will join the initiative, but said there will be a group with shared concerns about foreign governments and private-sector actors -- in China and elsewhere around the world -- using digital surveillance and other technologies to enable human rights abuses and target members of ethnic and religious minority groups, journalists and political dissidents.
The group will commit to a written, non-binding code of conduct intended to guide export licensing policy, the senior administration officials said.
The U.S. has invited about 100 government leaders to the “Summit for Democracy,” which begins Dec. 9, to talk about challenges faced by democracies and to push back against authoritarian powers. Taiwan was invited to join the virtual gathering; China, Russia, Turkey and Hungary were among countries left out.
The U.S. ambassadors from China and Russia have jointly complained about their countries’ exclusion from the summit.
Biden often frames world affairs as a fraught contest between democracies and authoritarian states for global supremacy -- one that democracies are at risk of losing.
In recent months, the U.S. has blacklisted several Chinese enterprises, forbidding Americans from doing business with them without special permission, including some alleged to be involved in human-rights abuses in the Xinjiang region. Similarly, the U.S. blacklisted companies controlled by the Burmese military after the military regime overthrew that nation’s civilian-led government.
And in an effort to crack down on malicious cyber activities, the U.S. added two Israeli firms, NSO Group and Candiru, to the list of entities banned from receiving exports from American companies, citing their roles in developing and supplying spyware and hacking tools.
Export controls have been a tool of American foreign policy since at least the Cold War, when Congress enacted limits for national-security purposes to prevent sensitive goods being sold to the Soviet Union. American suppliers need U.S. government licenses if they plan to sell their technology to a business on the so-called entity list.
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