Congress

Bill to preserve ZTE sanctions clears committee

mobile devices (Leonardo da/Shuterstock.com) 

An amendment designed to block an expected renegotiation of sanctions against Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE sailed through its first legislative hurdle, passing through the House Appropriations Committee on May 17 by a voice vote.

The amendment, less than a page long, modifies the $62.5 billion appropriations bill for Commerce, Justice and Science to specify that no funds may be used in contravention of an April 23 order put out by the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security that instituted a seven-year ban on ZTE from buying parts and components from U.S. technology companies. ZTE has been the subject of long-running suspicions by U.S. intelligence and national security officials, who believe their products can be used to facilitate spying by the Chinese government. Additionally, the company was hit with $1.19 billion in fines in 2017 by the Department of Commerce for violating trade embargoes against North Korea and Iran. ZTE has consistently denied wrongdoing in both cases.

Commerce officials subsequently determined that ZTE officials continued to be untruthful with regulators, even after the fines were levied, leading to the April 23 order.

That was upended when President Donald Trump sent out a tweet May 13 announcing that he had instructed Commerce officials to revisit the sanctions following complaints from Chinese President Xi Jingping. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross confirmed the department was reviewing the order during a May 14 luncheon in Washington D.C.

In a statement following passage, one of the amendment's lead sponsors, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) said the measure's quick passage through committee shows that "when the United States enacts sanctions, we stand behind them."

About the Author

Derek B. Johnson is a former senior staff writer at FCW.

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