Se­nate to in­clude mea­sure block­ing Trump’s ZTE deal in de­fense bill

The Myanmar Times - - International / Business -

THE Se­nate plans to chal­lenge Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s pledge to lift cer­tain re­stric­tions against Chi­nese tele­com gi­ant ZTE by in­clud­ing a mea­sure in the an­nual de­fense bill that would ef­fec­tively block the deal from be­ing im­ple­mented.

The bi­par­ti­san amend­ment would reim­pose penal­ties on ZTE for vi­o­lat­ing U.S. sanc­tions against ex­port­ing to Iran and North Korea that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion sought to lift in ex­change for the com­pany pay­ing a $1 bil­lion fine and fund­ing an in-house com­pli­ance team of U.S. of­fi­cials. It would also ban U.S. govern­ment agen­cies from pur­chas­ing any de­vices or ser­vices from ZTE or Huawei, an­other ma­jor Chi­nese tele­com firm, or us­ing govern­ment loans to sub­si­dize any sub­sidiaries or af­fil­i­ates of the two com­pa­nies.

“It’s only pru­dent that no one in the fed­eral govern­ment use their equip­ment or ser­vices and that they re­ceive no tax­payer dol­lars,” said Sen. Tom Cot­ton, R-Ark., one of the chief au­thors of the amend­ment. “Given their re­peated vi­o­la­tions of U.S. law, we can­not trust them to re­spect U.S. na­tional se­cu­rity, and so it’s vi­tal we hold them ac­count­able and pass this amend­ment.”

Trump has come un­der scathing crit­i­cism from mem­bers of his own party, who viewed the pres­i­dent’s ef­forts to help ZTE as anath­ema, both eco­nom­i­cally and in terms of na­tional se­cu­rity.

“These com­pa­nies have direct links to the Chi­nese govern­ment and Com­mu­nist Party. Their prod­ucts and ser­vices are used for es­pi­onage and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty theft,” said Sen. Marco Ru­bio, R-Fla., an­other chief backer of the amend­ment. He stressed that law­mak­ers must “re­main clear-eyed and uni­fied on the threat China poses to U.S. in­ter­ests and na­tional se­cu­rity,” even if the pres­i­dent wasn’t.

Cot­ton, Ru­bio, along with Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., filed their amend­ment to claw back the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ZTE deal the same day it was an­nounced. The move by sen­a­tors on Mon­day to in­clude it in the an­nual, must-pass de­fense bill came just hours be­fore Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. North Korea is largely de­pen­dent on eco­nomic ties with China, where lead­ers had claimed that ab­sent a ZTE deal, the tele­com gi­ant would col­lapse.

De­spite bi­par­ti­san sup­port for the mea­sure, Repub­li­cans are di­vided over whether it is wise to cross the pres­i­dent on this mat­ter - and it is not clear that the ef­fort to stymie Trump’s deal will make it to the fi­nal ver­sion of the de­fense bill.

The mea­sure is be­ing in­cluded as part of a pack­age of changes agreed upon by com­mit­tee lead­ers, mean­ing that the Se­nate is likely to in­clude it as part of the de­fense bill later this week. But the Se­nate’s bill must still be rec­on­ciled with the ver­sion of the de­fense bill that passed the House last month. That ver­sion pre­vents the govern­ment from pur­chas­ing ZTE and Huawei prod­ucts - but doesn’t reim­pose the sanc­tions-re­lated re­stric­tions lifted un­der Trump’s deal.

Repub­li­cans hop­ing to avoid a direct clash with the White House over the ZTE deal are eye­ing that rec­on­cil­i­a­tion process to mit­i­gate the Se­nate’s lat­est step.

“We’re just con­tin­u­ing the con­ver­sa­tion,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas. “There’ll be a con­fer­ence be­tween the House and the Se­nate on the de­fense au­tho­riza­tion bill . . . I want to keep the con­ver­sa­tion go­ing.”

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