While the US and China work to hammer out an agreement that would prevent a trade war as the two countries threaten to raise tariffs, the Trump administration reportedly has reached a deal to help bolster Chinese firm ZTE, which fell on financial hard times after it was banned from using US technology for violating sanctions on North Korea and Iran.
ZTE was also pegged by the intelligence community as posing a security risk to the US after researchers discovered backdoors in its Android phones that could allow the monitoring of user behaviour.
When President Trump started to make noise about lifting the ban shortly after imposing it, the House Appropriations Committee 17 May unanimously accepted an amendment to an appropriations bill that reinforced the sanctions.
“This amendment would prevent the Commerce Department from renegotiation of the sanctions it just enacted last month on ZTE,” said US Republican Dutch Ruppersberger, who authored the amendment to the 2019 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill.
Now the administration is telling members of Congress that a deal on ZTE is imminent, according to a report in the New York Times.
“Any ZTE deal must not be allowed to move forward until we have a complete understanding of any national security risks associated with ZTE – including whether it is possible to mitigate those risks and the Intelligence Community has had an opportunity to properly weigh in,” said Bennie G. Thompson, a ranking member of the Committee on Homeland Security., in a statement. “Until then, Congress must act to stop any deal.”
And Senator Marco Rubio, said it's time for lawmakers to step in. “Yes they have a deal in mind. It is a great deal... for #ZTE & China. #China crushes US companies with no mercy and they use these telecomm companies to spy and steal from us. Many hoped this time would be different,” he tweeted. “Now congress will need to act.”