WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the U.S. Commerce Department on Tuesday vowed to protect U.S. telecommunications networks from Chinese companies, but she refused to commit to keeping telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies on a U.S. economic blacklist.
“I would use the full toolkit at my disposal to the fullest extent possible to protect Americans and our network from Chinese interference or any kind of back-door influence,” Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said in testimony before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, naming Huawei and ZTE Corp. Congress in December approved $1.9 billion to fund the replacement of ZTE and Huawei equipment in U.S. networks.
The Commerce Department under former President Donald Trump took aim at China on numerous fronts, adding dozens of Chinese companies to a trade blacklist, including Huawei, the country’s top chipmaker SMIC, Hikvision and drone manufacturer SZ DJI Technology.
Asked by Senator Ted Cruz if she would keep Huawei on the economic blacklist, Raimondo said she would “review the policy, consult with you, consult with industry, consult with our allies and make an assessment as to what’s best for American national and economic security.”
Representative Michael McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Republican Senator Ben Sasse both criticized her refusal to commit to keeping Huawei on the list. “Huawei is still the Chinese Communist Party’s tech puppet and a serious threat to national security,” Sasse said.
If confirmed, Raimondo will inherit the prior Trump administration’s unsuccessful effort to bar U.S. app stores from offering Chinese-owned TikTok or WeChat for download.
Three U.S. judges blocked Commerce Department orders issued under Trump that sought to bar new downloads of the two apps and impose restrictions on WeChat and TikTok that would effectively bar their use in the United States. Those rulings are on appeal before U.S. circuit courts.
Under pressure from the U.S. government, ByteDance has been in talks for months to finalize a deal with Walmart Inc and Oracle Corp to shift TikTok’s U.S. assets into a new entity to address U.S. security concerns.
Raimondo also pledged to take “aggressive” action in response to trade practices from China. “China’s actions have been anticompetitive,” she added, saying she would use all available tools to “level the playing field.”
Reporting by David Shepardson and Michael Martina; Editing by Michael Perry and Dan Grebler
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