The case for an alliance of Techno-Democracies – Observer Research Foundation

This alliance and its leadership will be essential to safeguarding democratic institutions, norms, and values, and be a driver for sustainable and equitable economic growth around the world

Technologies, and the policies for their development, deployment, and use are at the centre of global statecraft and a key enabler for economic, political, and military power. Tech-leading countries and groupings such as China, the European Union (EU), India, Japan, South Korea, and the United States (US) seek to shape the global technological landscape to strengthen their economic competitiveness, secure their national interests, and promote their geopolitical aims. The answer, in part, has been a turn to techno-nationalist policies of reshoring manufacturing and supply chains and drives for greater self-sufficiency across a spectrum of key technology areas including semiconductors and critical minerals.

Leaders in tech-leading democracies also recognise, however, the need for better cooperation with each other to ensure that their technological future is beneficial and secure. This understanding is rooted in concerns over the China challenge and the risks associated with tech-enabled authoritarianism spreading around the world. There is also the pragmatic realisation that no one country can realistically address these issues on its own given the diffusion of technology and related know-how and the complexity of key global supply chains. Finally, there is the straightforward notion that a collective approach by like-minded countries has a greater chance of success than a collection of disparate strategies.

Policymakers from the world’s tech-leading democracies are inching toward creating stronger bonds with like-minded countries bilaterally and with multiple countries such as with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, G-7, and the US–EU Trade and Technology Council. While these efforts vary in scope and countries involved, they share the fundamental premise that the current trajectory of disjointed tech policy presents major but avoidable challenges and that status quo actions are ill-suited for the nature of the global strategic competition.

There is the straightforward notion that a collective approach by like-minded countries has a greater chance of success than a collection of disparate strategies.

While these efforts are much needed and should be welcomed, a plausible outcome of myriad uncoordinated coalitions is a splintering of technology norms, standards, and rules. Avoiding this fragmentation will require a new coordination mechanism for multilateral technology policy—an alliance of tech-leading democracies that cooperates to maximise effectiveness on matters including research and development, supply chain diversity and security, standard-setting, multilateral export controls, and countering the illiberal use of technologies. A partnership of this nature is also necessary to address current divergences in tech policy among like-minded countries and to help to prevent new ones from forming.

Three principles to underpin cooperation of tech-democracies

Thought leaders have offered numerous ideas for such an effort—a D-10, Tech-10, T-12, among others. Regardless of the exact details of the eventual grouping, there are three principles that should underpin its creation. First, membership criteria are countries with large economies and wide-ranging capabilities in technology areas that shape the 21st century economy. These countries must be committed to liberal democratic values, the rule of law, and human rights.

The second principle is that it should not be an exclusive club of western democracies. A tech alliance should not inadvertently disadvantage or ignore the ‘Global South’. The new grouping must have a mechanism to collaborate with other countries with smaller economies or less extensive tech capabilities, such as partners in the Indo-Pacific, Africa, and Latin America, …….


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