EU deploys new strategy in standards battle with China

Europe stresses ‚democratic values‘ as it seeks more clout over high-tech rules

For Nikkei Asia

HAMBURG, Germany — The European Commission has unveiled a new standardization strategy that underscores the growing geopolitical significance of the rules that govern all sorts of products and technologies, particularly amid the West’s tensions with China.

The framework released this week comes against a backdrop of European companies complaining that they have been increasingly disadvantaged by China’s growing clout in standard-setting processes for strategic sectors.

Standards for the most complex devices to the simplest tools and parts are set and imposed to ensure products are reliable, safe and work anywhere. But the new blueprint will expand the scope of the European Union’s standardization system from a focus on product safety to shaping the technologies of the future.

Priorities include technologies related to green and digital transitions — such as the recycling of critical raw materials and developments in clean hydrogen, low-carbon cement, semiconductors and data collection — as well as COVID-19 vaccines and medicines.

The EC will also fund standardization projects in neighboring countries and Africa, and will pursue more coordination between EU member states and „like-minded“ partners — a term often used to differentiate fellow democracies from autocracies, in particular China.

Efforts to ensure that data is protected in artificial intelligence technologies or that mobile devices are safe from hacking „rely on standards and must be in line with EU democratic values,“ stressed Margrethe Vestager, EC chief for digital and competition affairs, in announcing the strategy, which came out early on Thursday in Asia.

„We need standards for the rollout of important investment projects, like hydrogen or batteries, and to valorize innovation investment by providing EU companies with an important first-mover advantage,“ she said.


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