ZTE ban likely to stay in Defence Bill, Republican says
Regardless of an agreement that may be struck by the administration and Beijing, House lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to prevent the company from getting information that the US doesn’t want China to have, Mac Thornberry said
Any deal President Donald Trump strikes with China over ZTE Corp’s ability to tap the US market isn’t likely to apply to government agencies, according to a key Republican lawmaker.
House Armed Services Committee chairman Mac Thornberry said on Tuesday that he doesn’t “see a growing movement in the House” to remove language in the Defence Authorisation Bill that would ban government agencies from using technology made by China’s second-largest manufacturer of telecommunications gear.
ZTE became a flashpoint in US-China relations after the administration crippled the company by cutting it off from US suppliers for allegedly violating terms of a 2017 sanctions settlement, then lying about it.
But in what appeared to be a step back from the crisis, Trump this week unexpectedly ordered the Commerce Department to help get the Shenzhen-based company back in business, saying “too many jobs in China lost”.
Regardless of an agreement that may be struck by the administration and Beijing, House lawmakers on both sides of the aisle want to prevent the company from getting information that the US doesn’t want China to have, Thornberry said.
“I confess I don’t fully understand the administration’s take on this at this point,” the Texas Congressman said. “It is not a question to me of economics, it is a question of security.”
At a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Senator Mark Warner, the panel’s top Democrat, said Trump’s move on ZTE appeared to be a “bargaining chip”.
Fellow Democrat Ron Wyden said the president’s comments raised “extraordinary national security questions as well as economic policy concerns”.
During the hearing on confirming William Evanina as director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, Evanina was asked by Republican Senator Marco Rubio if he’d ever use a ZTE phone. Evanina said he wouldn’t.
Trump’s willingness to revisit penalties against ZTE shows that even national security considerations are up for negotiation as he seeks to forge a trade deal with China, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Tuesday.
“You’ve got different channels here,” Kudlow said. “There’s an economic channel, there’s a law enforcement channel, there’s a national security channel. In terms of the president’s point of view, I think he looks at them whole cloth.’’