Business leaders have written to Congress to complain about a new law restricting the use of Chinese IT systems by US government agencies

Criticism for law blocking Chinese IT systems in US

The US-China Business Council has criticised a new law discouraging US government agencies from buying IT systems from China.

Congress, reflecting growing US concern over Chinese cyber-attacks, tucked a new review process for US government technology purchases into a funding bill signed last month by President Barack Obama.

The measure requires NASA, the Justice and Commerce departments and the National Science Foundation to get approval from law enforcement officials when buying new IT systems, with a particular focus on whether the systems are "produced, manufactured or assembled by one or more entities that are owned, directed or subsidized" by China.

"The national security of the United States is critical, but it must not be used as a means of protectionism," John Frisbie, the business group's president, said in a letter urging leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives to block similar measures in the future.

"Product security is a function of how a product is made, used, and maintained, rather than by whom or where it is made. Imposing a country-specific risk assessment creates a false sense of security if the goal is to improve our nation's cyber-security," Frisbie said.

Chinese officials have urged the United States to repeal the law, which they said uses Internet security as an excuse to take discriminatory steps against Chinese firms.

Fearing Chinese retaliation and copycat legislation in other countries that could harm US interests, the Information Technology Industry Association, Business Software Alliance and other business groups also wrote to congressional leaders on Friday to urge reconsideration of the new law.

"Given the expedited manner in which this provision was enacted, we ask the Congress to review the security implications and competitive impact of this requirement, and consider a more constructive approach to this issue," they said.

The new provision also could inadvertently impede the US government's ability to use the latest cutting-edge technology to protect itself, the groups argued.

"The requirement to assess every IT product purchase, absent any triggering threshold, will likely slow the federal acquisition process and put impacted federal agencies behind the security innovation curve," they said.

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