The European Union is seeking to forge a stronger alliance with Japan in pivotal technology sectors such as artificial intelligence (AI), as part of its strategy to lessen dependence on China. EU Commissioner Thierry Breton emphasized this initiative in a recent Twitter video, where he announced that AI would be a high-priority discussion topic in his meeting with the Japanese government.
Breton stated, “I will engage with [the] Japanese government … on how we can organize our digital space, including AI based on our shared value.” His comments suggest an earnest effort to align EU's technological roadmap with Japan, a country known for its robust technology sector.
An EU-Japan Digital Partnership Council and Shared Interests in Semiconductors
The EU and Japan plan to establish a Digital Partnership Council to foster collaboration on quantum and high-performance computing. This follows a similar council formed between the EU and South Korea last week, focusing on AI and cybersecurity.
Breton also revealed plans to cooperate with Japan in the critical semiconductor domain. Semiconductors, the integral components found in a wide range of devices from cars to smartphones, are also pivotal in training AI models. As such, they represent a strategic area of technology where nations strive to position themselves for future advantage.
Japan plays a significant role in the global semiconductor supply chain, and it has been actively working to bolster its domestic industry. In fact, just last week, a fund supported by the Japanese government proposed a $6.3 billion acquisition of domestic chipmaking firm JSR.
The EU, too, has been striving to fortify its semiconductor industry across the bloc. This joint interest in semiconductors could serve as a robust foundation for the proposed EU-Japan technology alliance.
The Broader Picture: De-Risking and Technological Autonomy
The EU's endeavor to solidify partnerships with technologically advanced Asian nations represents a strategic ‘de-risking' from China. Unlike the U.S., which has taken steps to disengage its economy from Beijing, the EU seeks to reallocate risk by deepening technology-related relationships with allied nations.
Simultaneously, the U.S. continues to impose export restrictions on critical technologies, including semiconductors, in an attempt to isolate China. As part of this strategy, Washington has been urging its European allies to follow suit.
Last week, The Netherlands, home to one of the most crucial chip firms, ASML, announced new export restrictions on advanced semiconductor equipment. This development aligns with the broader trend of nations re-evaluating their supply chains and making attempts to bring semiconductor manufacturing back onshore.
The EU's move to collaborate more closely with Japan in key technological areas like AI and semiconductors is a strategic play in the broader geopolitical landscape. It not only seeks to mitigate risks associated with over-reliance on a single nation, but also aims to secure the EU's position in the global technology race.
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