Manufacturers Push Back on Trump's ZTE Aid

The Alliance for American Manufacturing is telling its supporters to push back on President Donald Trump's effort to get the Commerce Department to help Chinese telecom manufacturer ZTE, a move that comes after the Commerce Department only weeks ago had sanctioned the company for exporting technology to North Korea and Iran.

The President tweeted over the weekend that he was working with Chinese President Xi on helping ZTE stay in business, saying it was because it would cause too much job loss in China and he had instructed Commerce to "get it done."

After ZTE allegedly failed to comply with the terms of a settlement over illegally shipping telecom equipment to Iran and North Korea, Commerce last month banned U.S. companies from exporting their technology to the company for seven years. Not long after, the U.S. also banned the sale of phones from ZTE and Chinese telecom manufacturer Huawei on U.S. military bases.

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"Why would Trump publicly offer a major concession to China that could directly harm our national security?," asked Scott Paul, president of the alliance, in circulating the call to pressure the administration.

"Beijing has offered nothing in return, and yet Trump says he’s working directly with the Chinese president to prop up a company that repeatedly has been found to threaten U.S. interests and our national security?" he continued. "What a terrible deal. Tell Trump put America’s security above China..."

The Alliance has created an online letter template to send the message to the president to maintain the export ban on ZTE--actually on U.S. companies exporting their tech to ZTE.

"ZTE is a national security threat," the letter states. "The Pentagon already has banned the sale of ZTE products on military bases, and consumers have been urged to avoid buying them because of security concerns. Granting China this concession would be a mistake, especially since Beijing has yet to agree to end any unfair trade practice or make any meaningful reform. I encourage you to uphold the ZTE ban and remain tough on China."

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The House Communications Subcommittee will be looking at the ZTE issue, among others, Wednesday (May 16) at a planned hearing on supply chain security.

The alliance comprises manufacturers and steelworkers and pushes for "made in America" products and against what it calls China's "market-distorting practices."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.