Editor’s note: Romney is presenting himself as a China hawk.
Senator Mitt Romney is trying to prevent President Donald Trump from doing what many in Congress fear he plans to: Going easy on Huawei Technologies Co. as part of a trade deal with Beijing.
[Jenny Leonard | June 19, 2019 | Bloomberg]
In an amendment Romney submitted this week to the National Defense Authorization Act, the Utah Republican set out specific conditions for the commerce secretary to remove Huawei from a U.S. blacklist.
The Commerce Department last month put Huawei and more than 60 of its subsidiaries on it’s so-called entity list. That means American companies have to obtain a special license to sell components to the Shenzhen-based telecoms company.
The president has also signed an executive order restricting Huawei’s presence in U.S. networks. Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department is seeking extradition of Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou from Canada over accusations of breaking U.S. sanctions. She denies the charges.
Trump last month described Huawei as posing a national security threat, while also raising the possibility of easing up on the company as part of a trade deal.
“You look at what they’ve done from a security standpoint, from a military standpoint, it’s very dangerous,” Trump said, before adding: “It’s possible that Huawei even would be included in some kind of a trade deal.”
Trump’s own advisers, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, have repeatedly stated that the concerns over Huawei and trade negotiations were separate issues.
Romney’s amendment says the ban can only be lifted if Huawei and its senior officers haven’t violated U.S. or United Nations sanctions, or the company hasn’t engaged in the theft of U.S. intellectual property in the preceding five years. Another condition is that the Commerce Department should rule Huawei isn’t a threat to American telecommunications systems or critical infrastructure of the U.S. and its allies.
“Senator Romney supports the administration’s decision to prohibit U.S.-based companies from doing business with Huawei, and his amendment to the NDAA will ensure that remains the case until they no longer pose a national security threat,” spokeswoman Arielle Mueller said in an email.
Romney is the latest lawmaker who is vocally critical of Trump’s approach to dealing with the Chinese company. Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Warner last week wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, warning against Trump’s plan to possibly include a resolution on Huawei in a trade deal.
“In no way should Huawei be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations,” they wrote in their June 13 letter. “Instead, the U.S. should redouble our efforts to present our allies with compelling data on why the long-term network security and maintenance costs on Chinese telecommunications equipment offset any short-term cost savings.”
American intelligence officials for years have accused Huawei of being an arm of the Chinese government and using its technology to spy on U.S. citizens.
Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, in an interview with Bloomberg TV last month, said the Trump administration’s export curbs would cut into a two-year lead Huawei had built over rivals like Ericsson AB and Nokia Oyj. But he said the company will either ramp up its own chip supply or find alternatives to keep its edge in smartphones and 5G.
Ren said Trump’s remarks that Huawei could be included in a U.S.-China trade deal is “a big joke.” If Trump calls, “I will ignore him, then to whom can he negotiate with? If he calls me, I may not answer. But he doesn’t have my number,” he said.
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