The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously passed an amendment meant to prevent President Trump's attempt to offer a lifeline to Chinese technology company ZTE, with the move being proposed by Democrats Dutch Ruppersberger (MD) and Rosa DeLauro (CT). The amendment will be part of the Fiscal Year 2019 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill which will be reviewed by the entire House of Representatives next month.
President Trump faced criticism from both his political opponents and own party following his decision to attempt helping ZTE get "back into business," as he put it on Sunday, after the Shenzhen-based firm was banned from purchasing and licensing American technologies over a seven-year period due to its failure to comply with a 2017 settlement which saw it plead guilty to a conspiracy to violate U.S. trade sanctions imposed on Iran and North Korea. While stateside officials initially said the penalty is unrelated to the trade-related tensions between Washington and Beijing, Trump on Wednesday said the two are inseparable after all and restoring ZTE's crippled operations will be one of the main talking points during the upcoming negotiations between the two superpowers.
Congressman Ruppersberger said he "long suspected ZTE is used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans through the cell phone components they manufacture," citing his bipartisan report on the threat posed by the company back in 2012. Congresswoman DeLauro repeated some of the previously stated criticism of the President's decision to help ZTE due to job losses in China, questioning the validity of his "America first" policy. Congressman Ruppersberger maintains the amendment is enjoying bipartisan support and believes it will pass the parliamentary review that awaits it next month. While publicly traded, ZTE is majority-owned by the People's Republic of China, having been listed with the goal of running a profitable business. The firm already paid an $892 million fine over its embargo transgressions and fired four executives but failed to discipline 35 others like it agreed to. The Commerce Department also accused it of repeatedly lying to its investigators, though ZTE maintains it's settlement violations were an omission and not an intentional act of defiance, adding that it self-reported the problem after identifying it earlier this year, hence deeming the seven-year ban too harsh of a punishment.