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Rubio: Trump Administration ‘Surrendered’ to China on ZTE Ban

Rubio speaks at CPAC, March 5, 2016. (Mark Wilson/Getty)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) accused the Trump administration Tuesday of surrendering to China, citing a report that U.S. trade representatives are on the verge of striking a deal that would lift harsh sanctions against the Chinese telecom giant ZTE.

The Wall Street Journal report Rubio cited indicates that the U.S. has all but finalized an agreement to remove a ban on U.S. firms selling parts and software to ZTE — implemented last month by the Commerce Department — in exchange for a shake up on the company’s board and the payment of significant fines.

In a subsequent tweet, Rubio claimed China “is out-negotiating the administration and winning the trade talks.” He went on to chastise the administration for repeating the mistakes of the past by imposing fines and mandatory employee discipline after previously failing to change ZTE’s pattern of breaking U.S. sanctions law using that same approach.

Beijing has reportedly offered to remove tariffs on U.S. farm equipment as part of the deal, though the White House publicly maintains that sanctions on ZTE are a “law enforcement matter” unrelated to trade negotiations.

“The White House was meticulous in affirming that the case is a law enforcement matter and not a bargaining chip in negotiations,” one person familiar with thee negotiations told the Wall Street Journal.

The official insistence that sanctions on ZTE are unrelated to trade negotiations stands in stark contrast to President Trump’s tweets about the situation, one of which said explicitly that concessions on the ZTE ban were “reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China.”

Rubio has previously criticized the administration for using the ban on U.S. companies selling products to ZTE, which was implemented in part due to national security concerns about potential commercial espionage, to gain leverage in broader trade negotiations.

“It’s a mistake. I’ve told that to the White House, I’ve told that to the president, and I’m going to tell him again. ZTE has nothing to do with trade, nothing. The Chinese use their telecom companies to spy on us,” Rubio told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer Thursday. “They are trying to put us out of business. They steal our secrets, they reverse engineer the things that we do. Their goal is to dominate telecommunications and all technology in the world and they are doing it by stealing from us. We should not be helping them.”

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