US Senators Have A New Plan To Wreck ZTE, Despite Trump's Deal

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Perdue's statement on Wednesday echoed concerns from the White House over including a provision blocking the ZTE deal in the defense bill. Schlapp, the White House director of strategic communications, said the U.S. Commerce Department can also embed hand-picked individuals within the company.

Trump's administration struck a deal with ZTE last Thursday, which allowed the company to continue buying components from the U.S., under supervision, with a $1 billion fine.

But Trump then announced in mid-May that he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to find a way to get ZTE back into business. A bipartisan amendment has been added to the upcoming "must-pass" National Defense Authorization Act, one that would put the ban back into place. It's a stunning turnaround, though it had been signalled for some weeks. In April, the White House announced a seven-year ban on the company buying US parts after it said the company violated USA sanctions on trade with Tehran and Pyongyang. However, it wouldn't be the first time the President chose the unexpected route.

The amendment will be voted on in the Senate this week, and if it passes, will need to be reconciled with the House version of the bill that passed in May.

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Republican and Democratic senators who support the original ZTE punishments feel strongly that ZTE's flagrant violations deserve the ultimate punishment, and not a "slap on the wrist" fine.

But the bipartisan senate amendment, which has been added to the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act, would essentially kill that agreement by retroactively reinstating financial penalties and continuing the prohibition on ZTE's ability to sell to the US government. Although $1.4 billion is not a small amount of money, it sets the stage for other companies to also violate trade laws under the assumption that, at worst, they'll have to pay a hefty fine. "For me, it was more than that". Tom Cotton (R) said "ZTE said they couldn't remain in business, or at least not remain anything other than a cell phone hand-held business, if the denial order from March was in effect".

The measure is being included as part of a package of changes agreed upon by committee leaders, meaning that the Senate is likely to include it as part of the defense bill later this week.