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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As part of the Trump administration’s efforts to hold China accountable for unfair treatment of American companies, the Commerce Department on Nov. 19 proposed new export controls, traditionally limited to sensitive weapons technologies, that could bring China’s ambitious autonomous vehicle push to a screeching halt.

Why it matters: The move to block exports of these “emerging” and “foundational” technologies from the U.S., even by non-American companies, would limit partnerships with Chinese firms and possibly the employment of Chinese nationals in the U.S. AV industry, since technical information could qualify as an export.

Details: The proposed restrictions include computer vision, artificial intelligence, geospatial positioning, computer chips and memory, and mobile electric power — technologies critical to the development of AVs.

  • Baidu, Xpeng Motors and other Chinese AV players rely heavily on chips by companies like NVIDIA and sensors from companies like Velodyne (at one industry showcase, 85% of Chinese companies used its lidar).
  • China’s strategy document for the AV industry instructs companies to purchase foreign players to obtain key technologies — an approach that is now imperiled, as this list will be used by the interagency panel that reviews foreign investments in U.S. companies.

What to watch: Public comment is open until Dec. 19 and industry is likely to push back, as these export controls would have an impact on broad swathes of the economy — from self-driving cars to biotech. Changes within the Treasury or Commerce Departments, where leadership transitions have been rumored, could also shape the outcome.

Be smart: Even if the U.S. takes no action, the Chinese side likely will. China’s plan for its auto industry calls for the entire supply chain to be “secure and controllable” (i.e., to exclude foreign participation), and President Xi has made it clear that “core technologies” must be in Chinese hands. Multinational corporations, take note.

Patrick Lozada is a director in the China practice of Albright Stonebridge, a strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm.

Go deeper

50 mins ago - Health

CDC panel recommends Pfizer boosters for high-risk individuals, people 65 and up

Photo: Marco Bello/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A key panel at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shots for people 65 years old and older, as well as those at high risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: The approval is the near-final step in making the booster shots available to tens of millions of Americans, and comes a day after the FDA approved Pfizer boosters for the two groups. CDC director Rochelle Walensky is expected to accept the recommendation.

DHS temporarily suspends use of horse patrol in Del Rio

U.S. Border Patrol agents watch as Haitian immigrant families cross the Rio Grande from Mexico into Del Rio, Texas on Sept. 23, 2021. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday temporarily suspended the use of horse patrol in Del Rio, Texas a DHS spokesperson confirmed.

Why it matters: The suspension comes after images showing border patrol agents whipping at and charging their horses at migrants surfaced earlier in the week, prompting widespread criticism of the Biden administration's handling of the crisis at the border.

Southwest drought is worst on record, NOAA finds

In a stark new report, a team of NOAA and independent researchers found the 2020-2021 drought across the Southwest is the worst in the instrumental record, which dates to 1895.

Why it matters: They also concluded that global warming is making it far more severe, primarily by increasing average temperatures, which boosts evaporation.

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