Lawmakers criticize Trump's plan to help Chinese firm ZTE

By Sommer Brokaw  |  May 26, 2018 at 11:15 AM
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May 26 (UPI) -- Lawmakers in both parties oppose a Trump administration plan to reduce sanctions on ZTE, saying that scaling back penalties on the Chinese smartphone company is a national security risk.

Congress is working to prevent a deal the Trump administration reached Friday with ZTE from coming to fruition due to espionage allegations by the intelligence community, which claims it could sell trackable phones in the U.S. that could be used to steal intellectual property, NBC News reported.

A U.S. trade ban last month effectively ceased operations at ZTE, but President Donald Trump has pledged to help it out. A deal first reported by the New York Times would allow the company to re-enter the U.S. market after it meets certain terms such as paying a fine and hiring U.S. compliance officers.

Trump criticized Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer and President Barack Obama's administration on social media Friday, suggesting he had been more harsh on ZTE then Democrats even though he was reaching a deal to rescue the company from the brink of collapse.

"Senator Schumer and Obama Administration let phone company ZTE flourish with no security checks," he tweeted. "I closed it down then let it reopen with high level security guarantees, change of management and board, must purchase U.S. parts and pay a $1.3 Billion fine. [Democrats] do nothing."

Still, leaders of both parties are concerned the deal isn't enough to prevent national security risks.

"If the administration goes through with this reported deal, President Trump would be helping make China great again. Simply a fine and changing board members would not protect America's economic or national security, and would be a huge victory for President Xi, and a dramatic retreat by President Trump," Schumer said.

Republican Senator Marco Rubio similarly expressed his contempt for the deal on social media.

"Yes they have a deal in mind," Rubio tweeted. "It is a great deal... for #ZTE & China. #China crushes U.S. companies with no mercy and they use these telecomm companies to spy and steal from us. Many hoped this time would be different. Now congress will need to act."

The U.S. imposed sanctions against ZTE after it violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea, and then allegedly made "false statements" about its compliance. In April, the Commerce Department banned ZTE's export privileges for seven years for violating the terms of a 2017 settlement agreement and lying about it.

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