Republicans, Democrats join to take aim at Chinese telecoms

A bipartisan, bicameral, quartet of senators has introduced a bill that would reimpose a ban on U.S. tech imports to ZTE and potentially extend it to Huawei.

The bill, the Telecommunications Denial Order Enforcement Act, is co-sponsored by Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Rep.Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.). It would direct the President to impose orders banning the export of parts or components to Chinese telecoms in violation of export control or sanction laws.

Related: Barr Shares Skepticism of Huawei, ZTE Tech

The bill is partly in response to the reports that Huawei's CFO was arrested in Canada at the request of the U.S. on charges of violating U.S. sanctions.

ZTE had been the subject of such a ban, but the President directed Commerce to find a way to lift it as a way to save jobs in China. 

“Huawei and ZTE are two sides of the same coin. Both companies have repeatedly violated U.S. laws, represent a significant risk to American national security interests, and need to be held accountable," said Sen. Van Hollen. "Moving forward, we must combat China’s theft of advanced U.S. technology and their brazen violation of U.S. law."

ZTE and Huawei have been the targets of various government efforts to disentangle them from U.S. tech, though with that pushback from the White House in the case of ZTE.

For example, government contractors can no longer buy equipment from ZTE or Huawei as part of those contracts and must submit a plan for phasing out the use of that equipment from its systems.

Separately, the FCC is proposing to ban the use of broadband subsidy funds for ZTE and Huawei technology out of concern for national security.

The Trump White House has sent something of a mixed message.

After ZTE allegedly failed to comply with the terms of a settlement over illegally shipping telecom equipment to Iran and North Korea, Commerce banned U.S. companies from exporting their technology to the company for seven years. Not long after, the U.S. also banned the sale of phones from ZTE and Huawei on U.S. military bases.

But President Trump then instructed the Commerce Department to strike the deal that lifted the ban on U.S. tech exports to ZTE after China's president reached out to him over the resulting Chinese job losses.

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