Congress moving to block Trump deal with ZTE

Special to

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

U.S. President Donald Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are moving to block his deal to put Chinese telecom giant ZTE back in business if it pays $1 billion more in fines for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran.

The company logo of China’s ZTE telecom giant. / epa

Lawmakers said on June 11 that the U.S. Senate will vote as soon as this week on bipartisan legislation to block the deal, which would allow the company to start buying equipment from U.S. suppliers again once its pays the fine and changes its management.

The Chinese company has been accused of violating U.S. sanctions by selling sensitive equipment to both North Korea and Iran. After Trump announced his deal with China and ZTE last week, Senate leaders said they would seek to reverse it.

Related: U.S. intel chiefs emphatic: Don’t buy Chinese phones, Feb. 15, 2018

Democratic and Republican lawmakers have said they believe ZTE’s sales to Iran represent particularly “dangerous” breaches of U.S. national security.

Legislators said they are planning to block the ZTE deal in an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, a big defense policy bill the Senate is due to debate this week.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers introduced the amendment last week. Among other things, it would restore penalties on ZTE for violating U.S. export controls and bar U.S. government agencies from purchasing or leasing equipment or services from the Chinese company.

Republican Senator Tom Cotton and Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen, sponsors of the amendment, said Senate leaders have agreed to include their proposal in the defense bill’s “manager’s package,” which usually includes only noncontroversial amendments that are added to the legislation by unanimous consent.

Once the defense legislation passes the Senate, it must be reconciled with the House version of the bill before it can be sent to the White House for Trump’s signature or veto.