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U.S. lawmakers push back on Trump talk of helping China's ZTE

Reuters  |  WASHINGTON 

By and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday rejected any plan by to ease restrictions on China's ZTE Corp, calling the firm a security threat and vowing not to abandon legislation clamping down on the company.

Trump on Monday had defended his decision to revisit penalties on ZTE for flouting U.S. sanctions on trade with Iran, in part by saying it was reflective of the larger trade deal the is negotiating with

"I hope the administration does not move forward on this supposed deal I keep reading about," Republican said. Bilateral talks between the world's two biggest economies resume in Washington this week.

The is considering an arrangement under which the ban on ZTE would be eased in exchange for elimination of new Chinese tariffs on certain U.S. farm products, including pork, fruits, nuts and ginseng, two people familiar with the proposal said. The potential arrangement was first reported by

"They are basically conducting an all-out assault to steal what we've already developed and use it as the baseline for their development so they can supplant us as the of the 21st century," Rubio said at a hearing on policy.

Trump had taken to on Sunday with a pledge to help the company, which has suspended its main operations, because the penalties had cost too many jobs in It was a departure for a who often touts "America First" policies.

The Commerce Department in April found ZTE had violated a 2017 settlement created after the company violated sanctions on and North Korea, and banned U.S. companies from providing exports to ZTE for seven years.

U.S. companies are estimated to provide 25 percent to 30 percent of components used in ZTE's equipment, which includes and gear to build networks.


The suggestion outraged members of who have been pressing for more restrictions on ZTE. Some U.S. lawmakers have alleged equipment made by ZTE and other Chinese companies could pose a cyber security threat.

"Who makes unilateral concessions on the eve of talks after you've spent all this time trying to say, correctly in my view, that the Chinese have ripped off our technology?" Ron Wyden, the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees trade policy, told

Wyden, who is also on the Intelligence Committee, was one of 32 Senate Democrats who signed a letter on Tuesday accusing Trump of putting China's interests ahead of U.S. jobs and national security.

The company has denied wrongdoing.

Republican Mac Thornberry, of the House Armed Services Committee, said at a event on Tuesday he did not expect lawmakers would seek to remove a ban on ZTE technology from a must-pass annual defense policy bill making its way through

"I confess I don't fully understand the administration's take on this at this point," Thornberry said. "It is not a question to me of economics, it is a question of security."

Another Republican, John Kennedy, defended Trump, saying the president's approach is part of a larger set of negotiations with

"He didn't get up one day and go, 'I think I'll change my mind on ZTE.' I think it's part of a larger issue, and part of a larger set of negotiations," Kennedy told reporters.

(Additional reporting by and David Lawder; Editing by and Meredith Mazzilli)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, May 16 2018. 09:05 IST