Securing Sensitive Technologies: A Discussion on Strategies for Global Supply Chains in Today’s Strategic Trade Control Landscape  

May 28, 2021

US-China Strategic Trade War

The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies hosted a Virtual Industry Roundtable event on May 18th, 2021, with the goal of facilitating an exchange of perspectives on securing sensitive technology supply chains in today’s strategic trade control landscape. The roundtable took place over two sessions. The first aimed at defining risks related to illicit acquisition of sensitive technologies, especially with regards to concerns surrounding China and Russia. The second session was focused on countering these risks through compliance and due-diligence related strategies. 

This work is part of a broader program of activity at CNS focused on the evolution of strategic supply chains in an era of renewed great power competition. CNS will be organizing further virtual and in person events on this topic and is undertaking ‘industry mapping’ activities related to certain key strategic technologies. These mapping endeavors will seek to aid guide industries vulnerable to technology acquisition efforts by state actors as well as providing sectoral guidance. These sectors include machinery and equipment manufacturing, chemical and biological contract manufacturing, aerospace and avionics components manufacturing, telecommunications, carbon fiber, super-computing, semiconductors, hypersonic development, robotics, artificial intelligence, and advanced materials development.

In the first session, participants discussed the role of export controls in the context of great power competition, how emerging technologies and other factors are challenging list-based control regimes, best practices for closing information gaps and disparities, and how best to attract attention of the C-suite to elevate strategic trade concerns. Some best practices discussed include the benefit of diverse language skills in compliance teams, the need for human analysis to discern red flags, and a need for corporations and governments to perform outreach efforts to smaller companies that may not have substantial compliance teams and processes. 

The second session focused on approaches to countering the risks challenging the global supply chain in the context of great power competition. Participants discussed the challenges and opportunities associated with modern technology in the screening process as well as other means of due diligence. A key concern identified was the practice of scrubbing English language websites of information relevant to due diligence efforts. Specifically, this includes the removal of mentions of military end uses to subvert current military end user control efforts. While this practice can undermine due diligence, it highlights the need for the ability to perform due diligence efforts in the language of the customer and the importance of using all available sources of information. Participants discussed how open-source tools, such as the Wayback Machine and LinkedIn, can be used to identify and counter certain types of illicit activity.

Please contact Ian Stewart ([email protected]) or Robert Shaw ([email protected]) for more information on future activities linked to this one.

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