Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was not pleased with the news that the Commerce Department has struck a deal with Chinese telecom ZTE lifting the ban on U.S. tech imports to the company.
The ban was issued when ZTE was found not to have complied with a U.S. sanction agreement after it was discovered that the company was supplying technology to Iran and North Korea.
“It is the unanimous conclusion of our nation’s intelligence community that ZTE poses a significant threat to our national security," said Warner, who is vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "These concerns aren’t new; back in 2012, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a report on the serious counterintelligence concerns associated with ZTE equipment."
“It’s not only that ZTE was busted for evading sanctions on Iran and North Korea, and then lied about it; it’s that ZTE is a state-controlled telecommunications company that poses significant espionage risks, which this agreement appears to do little to address,” Warner added.
The senator was responding to a CNBC report that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had confirmed the deal, which inludes a $1 billion penalty and a U.S. team to oversee compliance as well as a new board of directors and executive leadership.
The President had signaled the likelihood that Commerce would help ZTE after the Chinese government approached him about the impact on Chinese jobs of Commerce's ban.
Commerce Department officials had concluded ZTE violated the terms of its settlement agreement with the U.S. over illegally shipping telecom equipment to Iran and North Korea and declared that U.S. companies would be prohibited from exporting technology to ZTE. That move resulted in ZTE essentially shuttering and calling the U.S. move unfair.