U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday slammed a reported deal between the Trump administration and Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE, which has been crippled since the United States punished the firm in April for selling American technology to Iran and North Korea.
“If the reports are true about a sweetheart deal for ZTE, President Trump has put China first, not America first,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said. “Once again, President Xi has outfoxed President Trump.”
“#China on the verge of winning again,” Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio tweeted.
News reports say ZTE agreed to pay U.S. fines in excess of $1 billion, make high-level management changes, and provide guarantees against future violations of U.S. sanctions. In return, the firm reportedly will be allowed to resume purchases of American telecommunications components vital to its products.
The U.S. Commerce Department has yet to officially announce completion of the deal, which President Donald Trump hinted at last month, tweeting that U.S. technology companies as well as Chinese workers were being hurt by ZTE’s near-complete halt of operations.
On the Senate floor, Schumer said ZTE deserved to be put out of business.
“ZTE has repeatedly violated U.S. sanctions, lied to U.S. officials about their efforts to rectify those violations,” the minority leader said. “Their technology has been deemed a national security threat by the FCC, the FBI, and the Pentagon. Some reports suggest the Trump administration is forgiving ZTE to set up an exchange for a short-term limited purchase of U.S. goods from China. If that’s the case, what a terrible deal for America.”
ZTE is but one of many issues at play in trade discussions between Washington and Beijing. Trump has promised to negotiate better terms for U.S. agricultural exports and other goods.
“Big trade barriers against U.S. farmers, and other businesses, will finally be broken. Massive trade deficits no longer,” the president recently tweeted.
A vocal group of lawmakers, including some Republicans, is unimpressed with Trump’s trade efforts in general and the White House’s handling of ZTE in particular. Tweeting about the issue, Rubio said China is mocking the U.S.
Schumer urged swift passage of legislation blocking the reported ZTE deal. So far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has given no indication he would prioritize such a vote.