The Trump administration is reportedly planning to obstruct the U.S. Congress’ legislative attempt to reverse an agreement it reached with ZTE, which allowed the Chinese telecommunications equipment company to restore its business transactions with hardware suppliers in the United States despite its repeated violations of international trade sanctions and settlements, recent reports indicate. The deal was confirmed by Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross last week, saying the lifeline agreement was meant to save ZTE from bankruptcy by allowing it to buy and license key technologies from U.S. suppliers. As part of that deal, ZTE agreed to a $1 billion fine paid in addition to the $892 million one it received last year as part of the original settlement.
The lifeline pact revokes a seven-year denial order levied by the Commerce Department on the Chinese company in April over its imports to Iran that violated certain trade embargoes imposed on China. While ZTE was already handed an $890 million fine due to its transgressions to which it pleaded guilty in 2017, the Commerce Department then ordered U.S. suppliers not to sell hardware components to ZTE as part of that penalty meant to sanction the company for not complying with the terms of its 2017 settlement. ZTE originally agreed to dismiss four senior officials and discipline 35 others with either reprimands or smaller bonuses but later acknowledged that it did not fulfill the latter. ZTE claimed its non-compliance wasn’t meant to be in defiance of the terms and that it was accidental only, with regulators also accusing it of lying to its investigators.
Last month, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously passed an amendment intended to block the Trump administration’s lifeline deal with the Chinese technology company, with the measure being proposed by Democrats Dutch Ruppersberger (MD) and Rosa DeLauro (CT). The amendment is part of the Fiscal Year 2019 Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations Bill. The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House now seeks to revise legislative language in a defense spending bill ahead of the Senate’s turn to vote on the anti-ZTE bill this week, with the Trump administration planning to meddle in the legislative process later.