EU Lobbies Asian Countries to Regulate AI Tech Firms, Said to Get Lukewarm Response

The European Union is lobbying Asian countries to follow its lead on artificial intelligence in adopting new rules for tech firms that include disclosure of copyrighted and AI-generated content, according to senior officials from the EU and Asia.

The EU and its member states have dispatched officials for talks on governing the use of AI with at least 10 Asian countries including India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and the Philippines, they said.

The bloc aims for its proposed AI Act to become a global benchmark on the booming technology and the way its data protection laws have helped shape global privacy standards.

However, the effort to convince Asian governments of the need for stringent new rules is being met with a lukewarm reception, seven people close to the discussions told Reuters.

Many countries favour a “wait and see” approach or are leaning towards a more flexible regulatory regime.

The officials asked not to be named as the discussions, whose extent has not been previously reported, remained confidential.

Singapore, one of Asia’s leading tech centers, prefers to see how the technology evolves before adopting local regulations, an official for the city-state told Reuters. Officials from Singapore and the Philippines expressed concern that moving overly hasty regulation might stifle AI innovation.

As Reuters reported last month, Southeast Asian countries are drawing up voluntary guidelines. Japan, for its part, is leaning towards softer rules than the stringent approach championed by the EU, as it looks to technology to boost economic growth and make it a leader in advanced chips.

Efforts in Asia are part of a global push by European nations that include talks with countries such as Canada, Turkey, and Israel, Dutch digital minister Alexandra van Huffelen told Reuters in an interview.

“We’re trying to figure out on how we can make the regulation from the EU copied, applicable and mirrored … as it is with the GDPR,” van Huffelen said late last month, referring to General Data Protection Regulation, the EU’s data privacy regime.

The emergence of AI has been hailed as a breakthrough that will usher in an era of rapid advances in science and technology, revolutionizing all aspects of human activity, but also painted as an existential threat.

EU lawmakers in June agreed to a trailblazing set of draft rules, which would make companies such as ChatGPT operator OpenAI disclose AI-generated content, help distinguish so-called deep fake images from real ones and ensure safeguards against illegal content.

The proposed legislation, which also envisages financial fines for rule violations, faces resistance from companies, with 160 executives last month signing a letter warning it could jeopardise Europe’s competitiveness, investment, and innovation.

Still, officials from the EU, which has signed “digital partnerships” with Japan, South Korea, and Singapore, voice optimism that they can find common ground with international partners to advance cooperation on technologies including AI.

“Our mission is again to make sure that what’s happening in the EU, which is our large constituency if I may say so, is protected,” EU industry chief Thierry Breton told Reuters during a trip to South Korea and Japan to discuss AI and semiconductors.

“I believe that it will probably not be too far from each other because we share the same values,” Breton said of regulation of AI in the EU and countries such as Japan.

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) economies made of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, the United States, and the European Union, in May, called for the adoption of standards to create “trustworthy” AI and to set up a ministerial forum dubbed the “Hiroshima AI process”.

Seoul will continue discussing AI regulation with the EU but is more interested in what the G7 is doing, a South Korean official said following a meeting with Breton.

The EU is planning to use the upcoming G20 meetings to further push for global collaboration on AI, notably with 2023 president India, van Huffelen told Reuters.

© Thomson Reuters 2023

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