Thu, May 17, 2018 - Page 10 News List

US lawmakers push back on ZTE talk

‘QUESTION OF SECURITY’:Republican US Representative Mac Thornberry said that US Congress is not expected to seek to remove the ban from a defense policy bill

Reuters, WASHINGTON

US lawmakers on Tuesday rejected any plan by US President Donald Trump to ease restrictions on China’s ZTE Corp (中興通訊), calling the telecommunications firm a security threat and vowing not to abandon legislation clamping down on the company.

Trump on Monday partly defended his decision to revisit penalties on ZTE for flouting US sanctions on trade with Iran, saying that it was reflective of the larger trade deal the US is negotiating with China.

“I hope the administration does not move forward on this supposed deal I keep reading about,” US Senator Marco Rubio said.

Bilateral talks between the world’s two biggest economies are to resume in Washington this week.

The Trump administration is considering an arrangement under which the ban on ZTE would be eased in exchange for the elimination of new Chinese tariffs on certain US farm products, including pork, fruits, nuts and ginseng, two people familiar with the proposal said.

The potential arrangement was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

“They are basically conducting an all-out assault to steal what we’ve already developed and use it as the baseline for their development so they can supplant us as the leader in the most important technologies of the 21st century,” Rubio said at a US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on Asia policy.

Trump had on Sunday taken to Twitter with a pledge to help the company, which has suspended its main operations because the penalties had cost too many jobs in China.

It was a departure for a president who often touts “America first” policies.

The US Department of Commerce last month found ZTE had breached a settlement created last year after the company breached sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and banned US companies from providing exports to ZTE for seven years.

US companies are estimated to provide 25 percent to 30 percent of components used in ZTE’s equipment, which includes smartphones and gear to build telecommunications networks.

Trump’s suggestion outraged members of US Congress who have been pressing for more restrictions on ZTE.

Some US lawmakers have alleged equipment made by ZTE and other Chinese companies could pose a cybersecurity threat.

“Who makes unilateral concessions on the eve of talks after you’ve spent all this time trying to say, correctly in my view, that the Chinese have ripped off our technology?” said Senator Ron Wyden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Committee on Finance, which oversees trade policy.

Wyden, who is also on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, was one of 32 Senate Democrats who on Tuesday signed a letter accusing Trump of putting China’s interests ahead of US jobs and national security.

The company has denied wrongdoing.

Republican US Representative Mac Thornberry, chairman of the US House Committee on Armed Services, said at a Bloomberg event on Tuesday that he did not expect lawmakers would seek to remove a ban on ZTE technology from a must-pass annual defense policy bill making its way through Congress.

“I confess I don’t fully understand the administration’s take on this at this point,” Thornberry said.

“It is not a question to me of economics, it is a question of security,” he added.

Another Republican, Senator John Kennedy, defended Trump, saying that the president’s approach is part of a larger set of negotiations with China.

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