Putting pressure on Trump, House passes bill barring government from doing business with ZTE

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The House on Thursday voted to cut off Chinese telecommunications company ZTE from U.S. business dealings, putting pressure on the firm and President Trump.

The measure came as an amendment to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which passed on a 351-66 vote, according to Bloomberg, would bar the federal government from using ZTE-made technology and would prevent the Defense Department from renewing contracts with vendors who do business with the company.

The move follows just days after a Senate panel overwhelmingly approved an amendment to block the president on ZTE. The Senate Banking Committee rebuked Trump’s efforts to ease sanctions in an overwhelming and bipartisan 23-2 vote. 


“If the president and his team won’t follow through on tough sanctions against ZTE, it’s up to Congress to ensure that it happens,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. 
“Both parties have come together today to strongly rebuke ZTE and the administration’s soft approach. This critical legislation along with the [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] reforms that it was added to are huge steps forward in our fight against the Chinese, and we should pass this legislation on the floor immediately,” he said.

The tension between Trump and Congress comes weeks after the president declared his support for ZTE, saying that he supported easing restrictions on the firm as he seeks to hammer out a trade deal.

Earlier this month, Trump tweeted that he was “working together” with China’s Xi Jinping to find a way for ZTE to get “back into business, fast.”

“President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!” he tweeted.

After facing harsh criticism for his comments, the president doubled down on his remarks in support of the Chinese firm, which he said is part of his administration’s larger efforts to secure a trade deal with China’s government.

“ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies. This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi,” Trump tweeted a day later.

Republicans and Democrats rallied against the president over his remarks in support of ZTE, pointing out national security concerns with the company, which is known to work closely with the Chinese government.

ZTE and Huawei, another Chinese firm, have faced intense scrutiny since a 2012 report from Congress warned that the companies’ technology could be used by the Chinese government to conduct surveillance on the U.S.

“Problem with ZTE isn’t jobs & trade, it’s national security & espionage,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted earlier this month. “We are crazy to allow them to operate in U.S. without tighter restrictions.”

The Commerce Department barred U.S. businesses from selling to ZTE last month after it discovered that the company had lied to investigators probing its business dealings with Iran and North Korea.
Tags China Donald Trump Marco Rubio ZTE

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