After venting, US senators suggest they may relent on ZTE deal
Lawmakers indicate wariness of harsh penalties on Chinese telecoms giant despite legislation to block Trump’s reprieve; letter comes after statements that a compromise is possible
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers sent a letter on Monday to the Commerce Department, seeking clarification on the impact penalties on Chinese telecoms firm ZTE will have on US firms.
The letter, which expressed concern about the uncertainty facing US companies, indicated that Senators who had hastily led a charge to block the Trump administration’s efforts to grant a reprieve to ZTE were reexamining their hardline position.
“The Denial Order’s prohibition on servicing, in turn, has created uncertainty as to … whether other suppliers can take actions to provide these customers with alternative products to ZTE items,” read the letter, which was coauthored by Republican Senators Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio along with Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen.
The statement comes after lawmakers expressed a willingness on Thursday to come to a compromise that would allow the White House to reach a deal on ZTE as part of ongoing trade negotiations.
“His primary point is in order to reset a trading system that has over the years gone against America, particularly as it relates to China, he needs the ability to negotiate and he needs negotiating leverage and anything like this could take that leverage away — that’s his concern,” Republican Senator Ron Johnson told Inside US Trade on Thursday.
The comments from Johnson came following a White House meeting with lawmakers on Wednesday. Other Senators specifically said a compromise was possible
“The president wants to maintain his ability to negotiate the enforcement action for the violation of sanctions they’ve negotiated,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn was quoted as saying. “But also I think the Congress is probably okay with just barring ZTE products for government procurement.”