Ban on US exports to ZTE should be kept in bill, senators say

The ZTE Corp. logo projected on a screen is reflected on a pane of glass at the Ericsson AB booth at the Mobile World Congress Shanghai in Shanghai, China, on Thursday, June 28, 2018. The exhibition runs through June 29. (Bloomberg pic)

WASHINGTON: Key senators wrote a letter aimed at pushing Congress to block President Donald Trump’s deal lifting a ban on US exports to Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp.

The House and Senate are deliberating over whether to reimpose the ban, which China has warned would put ZTE out of business, as part of the annual defence policy bill. The Senate version of the bill contains the ZTE provision while the House measure would block government procurement of ZTE products.

The letter on Thursday, signed by lawmakers including Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton, a top Trump ally, urged the chairmen and top Democrats of the House and Senate defence committees to keep the Senate language.

“We write to express our strong support” for the Senate measure to reinstate penalties, according to a copy of the letter.

Cotton was joined on the letter by top ZTE critics Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, as well as Senators Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican and Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat.

Cotton’s participation in the letter is significant because after a White House meeting on ZTE, the Arkansas senator told reporters he believed a compromise could be made with Trump.

Trump’s deal lifts the export ban imposed due to violations of Iran and North Korea sanctions in exchange for the payment of a US$1.4 billion fine, the installation of US inspectors at ZTE facilities and the replacement of ZTE’s corporate board and management.

The letter urges retaining the Senate version of changes to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which scrutinizes foreign acquisitions of American companies for national security risks. The House has passed a similar CFIUS bill that national security hardliners view as less stringent.