By Dr Eric Teo Chu Cheow
Some French diplomats have spoken of the need for a new global
framework for Technology Transfer and Regulations, an idea arising
from the recent Iranian and DPRK crises, as well as high-tech and
weapons controversies and the Airbus-Boeing dispute. This possible
framework could be conceived under the auspices of the United
According to the French idea, the nuclear issue will play a
central role in the global framework and help counter the
perception of "double standards" among certain powerful nations,
whereby developed countries can have access to peaceful nuclear
technology while others, especially in the developing world,
cannot. Other developing countries have also argued that some
countries could acquire nuclear technology even if they did not
sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), whereas disagreement
"forced" others to leave the NPT and break ranks with the
International Atomic Energy Agency.
At a time of high oil prices, surging world demand for energy
resources and the fear of severe environmental repercussions and
global warming, the nuclear option has become not only attractive,
but perhaps an economic necessity too. Thus the peaceful use of
nuclear technology has become a development issue in countries such
as Iran, Indonesia, China and India, as well as in developed
countries like Britain and the United States.
Big nuclear reactor-producing countries like Russia and France
could now be called upon to build such reactors in China and
Britain in order to complement crude oil and gas needs.
The peaceful use of nuclear energy is complicated by high
suspicions of "terrorist abuse," poor safeguards and the suspected
related use of weapons technology, especially at a time when the
Middle East appears more unstable than ever. Similar arguments
could be used by Indonesia's immediate neighbors should the
archipelago state proceed with its plans to acquire nuclear
technology for peaceful economic use.
But there is a clear weight to the charges of "double
standards," which must be resolved in a global way and in a fair
manner. There is no reason why a certain country should be judged
to be "safe" or "not safe" in terms of peaceful nuclear use on the
basis of its political regime.
Due to the growing tussle between Boeing and Airbus, the French
are suggesting including the transport sector in the global
framework. Moreover, there will be new aircraft developers from
emerging economies, like China, which could in the next five years
compete with the two giants. But, according to framework's
proponents, transport issues would also include trains, ships and
ports and other WTO-related issues, which could go more and more
high-tech, or even nuclear, in the coming years.
Finally, "high-IT" would regulate the transfer of sophisticated
IT systems worldwide, and could even constitute a means of checking
terrorism. But it could also be a double-edged sword, used as a
means of economic and intellectual protectionism, and serve as a
weapon against further technology transfers and outsourcing.
However, its greatest merit would be clearer international
regulation and transfer of technology, with more fairness and
equity so that developing countries can also develop and rise
without special treatment or unfair prejudices.
The author is a council member of the Singapore Institute
for International Affairs.
(China Daily August 8, 2006)