Mar 18, 2024 - News

Takeaways from Seattle's first Pacific Tech Policy Conference

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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Tech, policy and legal experts from around the world gathered for the Pacific Technology Policy Conference in Seattle last Wednesday to discuss how to regulate emerging technology in ways that satisfy lawmakers, tech firms and the public.

Why it matters: Policymakers can't craft laws fast enough to keep up with emerging technology and they sometimes don't fully understand what they're legislating, said Jonathon Marek of the Seattle-based National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR), which hosted the conference.

  • That's led to laws with unintended side effects, according to Marek.
  • For example, federal regulations created in 2022 and tightened last year on semiconductor exports were meant to prevent China's military from importing advanced semiconductors or equipment, wrote Axios' Hans Nichols.
  • But the regulations have disproportionately and negatively affected South Korean companies, including Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix, per a 2023 NBR report.

What they're saying: "Conversations alone won't solve these challenges," NBR director of technology and geoeconomic affairs Doug Strub told Axios.

  • But these types of discussions can generate innovative ideas for regulating emerging technologies, he said.

What we're watching: Potential changes to key policies, including the U.S.'s withdrawal of support for WTO e-commerce, which speakers at the conference said could disadvantage the U.S. in the digital domain.

What's next: The 2025 conference will focus on quantum computing, cybersecurity, biotech and batteries.

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