BEIJING, February 6 (TMTPost)-- Chinese expert believes the U.S. government is very likely to tighen its curbs on China’s biotechnology sector in the futurer despite introduction of a relevant bill delayed.
The House select committee on China said it has introduced on January 25 a bill that aims to restrict federally funded medical providers from allowing WuXi Apptec, BGI Group and its subsidiaries, and other China’s biotech firms from getting genetic information about Americans, citing these companies’ aiding China’s miliary. Similar legislation was unveiled in the Senate. Hong Kong-listed shares of Wuxi AppTec crashed 21.2% and Shanghai-traded stocks of the company dropped by the daily limit of 10% last Friday as the draft bill targeting biotech firms raised concerns of investors.
A bill that would ban U.S. federal agencies from contracting with Chinese biotech firms hit a delay in the Senate, Reuters reported late Friday, quoting sources including ongressional aides. One of aides said the bill would be considered at a future date, without giving a timetable, and another aide said it is not expected to move out of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs at least a few weeks.
As a response, WuXi AppTec released an announcement last Sunday, saying that the company "has not, does not and will not pose a national security risk to any country," and it should not be listed as a "biotechnology company of concern" in a draft U.S. bill.
WuXi AppTec also said that, as a global company with operating bases in Asia, Europe, and North America, it does not have a human genomics business and does not collect human genome data in any of its existing businesses. Moreover, the company has no links with any government or military organization.
BGI Group reponded, in a statement, that it doesn't have access to Americans' personal genomic data and denied allegations it helps the Chinese government collect DNA data through the China National GeneBank.
Capital Hill’s new legislation reflected biotech became a new focus in U.S.-China tech rivalry, American news website Axios commented at the weekend. The site stressed the market for biologically engineered and produced materials, medicines, fuel and food could be worth between $4 trillion and nearly $30 trillion globally each year by 2030.
The delay of the bill targeting Chinese biotech companies may result from the relatively tight schedule for the Congress, and anothe reason could be that the bill, in the eyes of some institutions and professionals, has many loopholes which require for additional evidence and materials, Li Haidong, professor at Institute of International Relations, China Foreign Affairs University, told Chinese state-backed newspaper the Global Times. However, the delay doesn’t mean the Congress will drop its review, Li noted. In the long-term, it is highly likely that the United States will strengthen restrictions and suppression on China's biotechnology sector, Li expected. Even though some American companies that cooperate with Chinese partners may step up lobbying in Congress to conduct a more comprehensive evaluation of the proposed measures, generally speaking, Washington’s measures against China’s biotech industry will become tighter and stricter, Li said.
The new bill came on heels of further curbs on China’s high-tech imposed by the Biden administration. At the beginning of this month, China just issued warnings about the Pentagon’s recent move to add Yangtze Memory Technologies Co., Ltd., China’s leading memory chip maker, as well as Megvii, an artificial intelligence (AI) company, to a list of companies that it accuses of aiding China’s military.
China firmly opposes the U.S. overstretching the concept of national security, setting up all kinds of discriminatory lists, going after Chinese companies and disrupting normal economic and trade cooperation between China and the U.S., Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a regular press on February 1. Such moves are bound to backfire as they erode the confidence of foreign companies to invest and operate in the US, and undermine the interests of US companies and investors, Wang said. Wang urges the U.S. to immediately correct these discriminatory practices and provide a fair, just and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies, and added China will continue to firmly safeguard the lawful and legitimate rights and interests of its companies.