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Bipartisan bill would handcuff Trump on China concessions

By Burgess Everett
“Huawei isn’t a normal business partner for American companies, it’s a front for the Chinese Communist Party," Tom Cotton says.

Senators are introducing a bipartisan bill that would clamp down on U.S. companies from doing business with Chinese tech giant Huawei, the latest effort to ensure President Donald Trump takes a hard line in his trade talks with China.

Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are leading the effort to stop the Trump administration from unilaterally allowing business with Huawei. Their bill would require congressional approval for the Commerce Department to remove Huawei from a list that found "reasonable cause" that the company was acting against U.S. security interests. The bill would also allow Congress to disapprove of any waivers granted to companies selling parts to Huawei.

It's unlikely to get a standalone vote, but demonstrates the unease among both Trump critics and allies about giving Chinese companies concessions.

“Huawei isn’t a normal business partner for American companies, it’s a front for the Chinese Communist Party. Our bill reinforces the president’s decision to place Huawei on a technology blacklist. American companies shouldn’t be in the business of selling our enemies the tools they’ll use to spy on Americans," said Cotton, a close Trump ally.

“The best way to address the national security threat we face from China’s telecommunications companies is to draw a clear line in the sand and stop retreating every time Beijing pushes back," said Van Hollen. "President Trump shouldn’t be able to trade away those legitimate security concerns."

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) are co-sponsoring the bill, a person familiar with the effort said, and a bipartisan companion bill is also being introduced in the House.

President Trump announced this summer that he will grant exemptions for Huawei to do business with U.S. companies if it doesn't "impact our national security," raising alarms among lawmakers in both parties.