US lawmakers scramble to roll back Donald Trump’s deal to reopen ZTE

Trump has vowed to save ZTE in order to avoid the Chinese losing jobs, but US politicians from both sides of the aisle won’t stand for it

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 June, 2018, 4:19am
UPDATED : Friday, 08 June, 2018, 4:27am

Republican and Democratic US senators introduced legislation on Thursday that would roll back an agreement President Donald Trump’s administration announced to ease sanctions on Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Thursday that the US government had reached a deal with ZTE that reverses a ban on it buying parts from US suppliers, allowing China’s No. 2 telecom equipment maker to get back into business.

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The Senate measure would restore penalties on ZTE for violating export controls and bar US government agencies from purchasing or leasing equipment or services from ZTE or Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, another major Chinese firm.

It would also ban the US government from using grants or loans to subsidise Huawei, ZTE or any subsidiaries or affiliates.

The legislation has bipartisan support. It was introduced by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and fellow Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, as well as Republican Senator Tom Cotton, a close Trump ally who has emerged as one of his party’s most influential foreign policy voices.

Cosponsors include Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Susan Collins, and Democrats Richard Blumenthal and Bill Nelson.

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They offered the legislation as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, a defence policy bill Congress passes every year.

The Senate is expected to debate the NDAA next week, and it should become clear then whether the amendment would be allowed to come up for a vote.

Backing for the amendment would be a departure for Trump’s fellow Republicans, who control Congress.

Republican lawmakers have generally been strong supporters of Trump’s legislative agenda, with only a handful of members voting only very rarely against the White House since he took office in January 2017.

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A US investigation into ZTE was launched after Reuters reported in 2012 the company had signed contracts to ship hardware and software worth millions of dollars to Iran from some of the best-known US technology companies.