Republicans cave to Trump and soften legislation punishing Chinese telecom giant ZTE

  • Republicans are set to ease the ban on sales of ZTE smartphones in the United States, instead just restricting the Chinese telecom company from being part of US government contracts.
  • The move appears to be a major concession to President Donald Trump, whose administration has pushed for easing sanctions on ZTE in recent months.

WASHINGTON – Congressional Republicans gave what appears to be a major concession to President Donald Trump on Friday, easing a ban on the Chinese smartphone maker ZTE.

The conference committee tasked with hashing out the final details of a must-pass defence bill by combining the House’s and Senate’s versions stripped language from the legislation that would have completely banned ZTE sales in the United States, a Democratic aide confirmed to Business Insider.

Last month, the Senate passed its version of the defence bill with language that would ban ZTE sales. It was viewed as a major blow to Trump, who has expressed a desire for the Chinese company to get back on its feet as it faced US penalties for violating sanctions agreements. Instead, the compromise bill would bar ZTE only from being part of US government contracts, something more in line with House Republicans’ plan.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer slammed Republicans and the White House in a statement on Friday, saying they “have once again made President Xi and the Chinese Government the big winners and the American worker and our national security the big losers.”

“The administration’s backtrack on ZTE is another example of the president being weak in the face of another nation’s leader while Republicans just follow along,” Schumer added. “President Trump has once again broken his core promise to be tough on China simply to please the president of China – and he got nothing in return.”

ZTE has been a contentious issue in Washington, and many Senate Republicans were wary of the smartphone maker’s intentions. When the White House announced it would look at lifting sanctions on ZTE, many lawmakers were shocked and felt out of the loop on what they view as a key area of national security.

“I’m sure the president’s national-security team is advising him about this company and some of their nefarious activities,” Sen. John Thune, the Republican chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, told Business Insider in May. “But I just really worry about us doing anything that would benefit them.”

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