June 12 (UPI) — The Senate adopted a measure Tuesday to block President Donald Trump’s deal to lift sanctions from Chinese telecom company ZTE.
A bipartisan amendment was added to the National Defense Authorization Act that reinstitutes penalties against ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions against exporting to Iran and North Korea, and bans U.S. government agencies from purchasing any of the company’s devices or services.
“It’s only prudent that no one in the federal government use their equipment or services and that they receive no taxpayer dollars,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said. “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.”
In February, U.S. intelligence officials warned Americans not to use smartphones made by ZTE or Huawei — another Chinese telecom company — as the communication technology could be compromised “to gain positions of power inside our telecommunication networks that provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure.”
ZTE halted most of its operations in May after the Trump administration blocked U.S. firms from selling or providing services to the telecom giant, but U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said last week that the company and the United States had reached a deal after Trump pledged to help the company get back into business.
The deal implemented a $1 billion penalty against ZTE and required the addition of a U.S.-chosen compliance team to monitor the company. It also required ZTE to change its board of directors and executive team within 30 days.
Cotton suggested if the bill is passed by the Senate and signed by Trump, the amendment would likely force ZTE out of business by blocking the deal.
“ZTE said they couldn’t remain in business, or at least not remain anything other than a cellphone hand-held business, if the denial order from March was in effect. And this would essentially put the denial order back into effect,” he said.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the inclusion of the amendment was an agreement by a bipartisan group of Senators that Trump was “dead wrong to back off on ZTE.”
“The fact that a bipartisan group of senators came together this quickly is a testament to how bad the Trump administration’s ZTE deal is and how we will not shy away from holding the president’s feet to the fire when it comes to keeping his promise to be tough on China,” Schumer said.