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EU steps up WTO action against China’s forced technology transfers

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The European Union challenged today in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) the systemic practices that force European companies to give up sensitive technology and know-how as a precondition for doing business in China. This legal action builds up on a case launched by the EU in June 2018.

With this move, the EU significantly broadens and deepens the scope of its WTO action against Chinese measures on forced technology transfers. This step is taken in the light of additional findings concerning the incompatibility of the Chinese measures on the approval of investments and the protection of foreign companies’ intellectual property rights with the agreed multilateral rules.

Commissioner for Trade Cecilia Malmström said: “We cannot tolerate that EU companies have to give away valuable technology as a price to pay for investing in China. This clearly goes against the rules that China committed itself to when it joined the WTO.  Today, we launch a broader and more systemic legal challenge against this illegal practice, as we believe that it is a major issue affecting European companies doing business in China. This is a matter that can and should be solved within the international, multilateral framework.”

In its revised request to the WTO, the EU is challenging Chinese laws that regulate:

–  the approval of investments in the areas of electric vehicles (New Energy Vehicles) and biotechnology (crop seeds), part of the strategic sectors of Made in China 2025 plan,

–  the approval of joint ventures across sectors,

as they impose performance requirements on foreign companies operating in China, and restrict the economic and contractual freedom of foreign companies on investments and technology transfers.

The so-called performance requirements force or induce European companies to transfer technology to their joint ventures with Chinese partners in exchange for the necessary administrative approvals by the Chinese authorities. Foreign companies are also required to carry out research and development activities in China.

At the time of joining the WTO China committed not to impose performance requirements in exchange for investment approvals, and to preserve the contractual freedom of companies in China, in particular in the context of investments and technology transfers. The EU maintains therefore that the Chinese current policy measures are in violation of the China’s legal commitments.

The measures challenged today come on top of what the EU had covered in its initial legal action triggered in June 2018. The previous request targeted provisions of the Technology Import and Export Regulation (“TIER”) and the Regulation for the Implementation of the Law on Chinese-Foreign Equity Joint Ventures (“JV Regulation”), as they go against the WTO rules of equal treatment for national and foreign companies and unduly restrict the rights of EU companies, among others in relation to patents.

Background

The request for consultations formally initiates the WTO dispute settlement proceedings. If consultations do not reach a satisfactory solution within 60 days, the EU may request the WTO to set up a panel to rule on the compatibility of China’s measures with WTO rules.

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Satya Nadella Says AI Golden Age Is Here and ‘It’s Good for Humanity’

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The cutting-edge chatbot ChatGPT is capturing the world’s imagination. The new artificial intelligence site amassed 1 million users in just five days after its recent launch. It is but one of a dozen AI-driven so-called “killer apps” that will transform human productivity and the future of work.

ChatGPT answers complex questions via short prompts on a vast array of topics, and even writes lyrics and poetry. Underpinned by generative models such as GPT-3 and GPT-3.5, it is the most conspicuous example of technology dubbed generative AI.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft Chairman and CEO, in a session at the Annual Meeting, told Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, that a golden age of AI is under way and will redefine work as we know it.

“The future of work is not just about technology and tools,” he said. It’s about new management practices and sensibilities to the workplace.”

“Technology will provide more and more ways to bring people together,” he said. Public-private cooperation itself is moving virtual. The Forum’s Global Collaboration Village, for example, harnesses the power of the metaverse as a platform for collaborative, inclusive and effective international action.

“Microsoft is opening up access to new AI tools like ChatGPT,” said Nadella. “I see these technologies acting as a co-pilot, helping people do more with less.”

He provided two anecdotes of recent use cases of GPT technology. The first is an expert coder from Silicon Valley who improved their productivity by 80% by using the model to help write better code faster. The second was an Indian farmer who was able to use a GPT interface to access an opaque government programme via the internet, despite only speaking a local dialect.

“AI is just at the beginning of the S-curve,” said Nadella. The near-term and long-term opportunities are enormous, he added.

Looking ahead, he said Microsoft intends to lead on quantum computing. Microsoft has all the building blocks for a next-generation quantum computer. He said: “Microsoft will achieve quantum supremacy and aims to build a general-purpose quantum computer.”

On safety and security, Nadella said the operating principle for protecting critical infrastructure should be to assume the worst – “have zero trust”. “Safety and security needs to be included right at the design stage,” he said.

Sustainability is at the core of the business. “By 2050 Microsoft aims to not just be carbon-neutral but carbon-negative.” Last year the tech giant released “Cloud for Sustainability”, bringing together a growing set of environmental, social and governance (ESG) capabilities across the Microsoft cloud portfolio plus solutions from the firm’s global ecosystem.

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Cybercrime Initiative to Boost Coordination between Private Sector and Law Enforcement

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In an effort to tackle rising cybercrime levels, the World Economic Forum launched today at the Annual Meeting 2023 an initiative to map cybercriminal activities and identify joint public and private sector responses.

Building on the expertise of the Forum’s Partnership against Cybercrime, the Cybercrime Atlas initiative will provide a platform for leading cybercrime investigators, national and international law enforcement agencies, and global businesses to share knowledge, generate policy recommendations and identify opportunities for coordinated action to fight cyberthreats.

“The Cybercrime Atlas is a collaborative research initiative that gathers and collates information about the cybercriminal ecosystem and major threat actors operating today,” said Jeremy Jurgens, Managing Director, World Economic Forum. “The insights generated will help promote opportunities for greater cooperation between the private sector and law enforcement to address cybercrime.”

Cybercrime, such as the ransomware attack on Colonial Pipeline in May 2021 that caused US President Joe Biden to declare a state of emergency, is a threat to national security, public organizations and businesses of all sizes. Despite the amount of digital data collected on cybercriminal activities worldwide, the effort to fight it is often uncoordinated, disjointed and dispersed. The Cybercrime Atlas aims to map the cybercrime landscape, covering criminal operations, structures and networks.

First announced at San Francisco’s RSA Conference in June 2022, the Cybercrime Atlas has benefited from a year of pro bono analysis of 13 criminal groups by cybercrime investigators. Their approach and findings have been welcomed by law enforcement agencies.

“This initiative underlines the need for an enhanced multi-sector approach to combat the increasing cybercrime threat,” said Jürgen Stock, Secretary-General, International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). “A global solution must include private sector insights to enable law enforcement to prevent, detect, investigate and disrupt cybercrime.”

The secretariat for the Cybercrime Atlas initiative will be hosted by the World Economic Forum for the next 2-3 years, with the support of Fortinet, Microsoft, PayPal and Santander, until it is sufficiently established to become an independent platform.

“The Cybercrime Atlas is an important initiative that will aid industry, law enforcement, and government agencies by providing a first-of-its-kind visibility to disrupt cybercriminals across their ecosystem and infrastructure,” said Ken Xie, Chief Executive Officer, Fortinet. “A global and unified effort will make it easier to get beyond the obstacles that shield cybercriminals.”

The Forum’s Partnership against Cybercrime initiative brings together a dedicated community to drive momentum for a public-private partnership to combat cybercrime.

“Cybercriminals work in the shadows and exploit vulnerabilities to inflict devastating attacks. The Cybercrime Atlas provides an important forum that brings the public and private sectors together to share actionable information and leverage cross-sector data, capabilities and expertise, crucial to disrupting cybercrime quickly, and at scale,” said Brad Smith, Vice-Chair and President, Microsoft.

“To mitigate and disrupt global cybercrime in today’s interconnected world, we need robust platforms to share intelligence and facilitate more meaningful institutional collaboration,” added Assaf Keren, Chief Information Security Officer and Vice-President, Enterprise Cyber Security, PayPal. “The Cybercrime Atlas represents a key next step in this work and an opportunity to unite global businesses, law enforcement and experts around concrete opportunities to protect the world’s citizens and their safety.”

“Given the global nature of cyberthreats, increasingly public-private collaboration is the best way to combat cybercrime,” said Dirk Marzluf, Group Chief Operating and Technology Officer, Banco Santander. “Organizations must look beyond their perimeter and combine efforts and resources with businesses, law enforcement and government.”

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Landmark Reports on Future of Metaverse Focus on Interoperability and Value Creation

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The Defining and Building the Metaverse initiative, launched by the World Economic Forum in May 2022, has released initial findings in two briefing papers – the first research of its kind on the metaverse. The initiative combines the expertise of more than 150 individuals in diverse sectors from the public and private sectors to understand and guide the future of the metaverse to become safe, interoperable and inclusive.

The governance briefing paper, Interoperability in the Metaverse, emphasizes the importance of removing friction for users. Interoperability is one strategy for allowing users to move across and between the physical and digital world with their relevant data, digital assets and identities. It can facilitate the free circulation of data and the secure exchange of information across systems.

The value creation report, Demystifying the Consumer Metaverse, focuses on consumer applications, foundational technologies and potential pathways to economic value and growth. The metaverse will require a diverse range of organizations to redefine their brands and change the way they monetize products and services to generate consumer value. The immersive, interactive nature of the metaverse will require businesses to move further away from the one-way delivery of products and services to becoming metaverse participants and providers. As consumer organizations experiment and incubate new business models for the metaverse, their work can inspire others and demonstrate the possibility of change in other industries.

The metaverse – an immersive, interoperable and synchronous digital world – represents the next era in the internet’s development. While its precise definition is still being debated, the metaverse is already forecast to become an $800 billion market in 2024. Unlocking the potential of this new field requires coordination of technology developers, corporations, governments and civil society. The World Economic Forum has convened experts from a broad range of fields to focus on two workstreams related to the future of the metaverse: governance and value creation.

Future workstreams will focus on two additional governance-related themes: privacy, safety and security; and identity. The value-creation track will issue additional outputs focused on other industries and the social implications of the metaverse.

“The metaverse is the next version of the internet and it is critical that it’s built by all, and for all. These two outputs reflect premier work on the metaverse involving such an extensive set of stakeholders and leaders, demonstrating the unique value of public-private partnership in metaverse development,” said Cathy Li, Head of Media, Entertainment and Sport, World Economic Forum.

Huda Al Hashimi, Deputy Minister of Cabinet Affairs for Strategic Affairs, Office of the Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, said: “Making the most of the metaverse will require governments to be proactive in understanding both the opportunities and the challenges that a persistent and interconnected virtual environment offers. This will also require developing new capabilities and importantly a different approach to regulation, informed by agile principles. This briefing paper clearly lays out a framework that can help governments gain a better understanding of the opportunity presented by the metaverse and makes a strong case for investing now in creating the conditions that will allow to generate public value from it, whilst protecting the public.”

Peggy Johnson, CEO of Magic Leap, Inc., said: “At Magic Leap, what excites us about augmented reality is the two-way bridge it creates between our digital and physical worlds, taking information from 2D screens into 3D spaces, where it is far more intuitive and engaging. We’re at a pivotal moment for this technology, and it is critical that we have a shared set of principles that support further innovation, ensure accessibility and promote interoperability between platforms.”

Yat Siu, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Animoca Brands, said: “The metaverse initiative is focusing on highly relevant topics to the metaverse, like interoperability – which is fundamental to digital assets. How do we ensure true ownership of assets? How do we improve the frameworks from those used in Web2.0? These are the complicated issues this initiative is taking on and finding answers to.”

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