© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Gina Raimondo, Biden’s nominee for secretary of Commerce, speaks in Wilmington, Delaware
By David Shepardson
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, including Huawei and ZTE Corp (HK:).
“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. Congress in December approved $1.9 billion to fund the replacement of ZTE and Huawei equipment in U.S. networks.
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.”
She told the panel the department must “take aggressive trade enforcement actions to combat unfair trade practices from China and other nations that undercut American manufacturing.”
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 if she would keep Huawei on the economic blacklist, Raimondo said if confirmed 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.”
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 (NYSE:) Inc and Oracle Corp (NYSE:) to shift TikTok’s U.S. assets into a new entity to address U.S. security concerns.
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