US senators revive a bill to block Huawei from US banks

removal fund US Huawei
FILE PHOTO: A logo of Huawei Technologies is seen at its exhibition space, at the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at Porte de Versailles exhibition center in Paris, France June 15, 2022. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

(Reuters) – US lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan bill to sanction Chinese tech company Huawei Technologies and Chinese 5G companies, restricting them from accessing US banks.

The bill, introduced by Republican senator Tom Cotton and backed by lawmakers such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, seeks to “severely sanction” Huawei, and other “untrustworthy” Chinese 5G producers who they say engage in economic espionage against the US.

The bill will add these entities to the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List, effectively freezing out of the US financial system.

Huawei did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Second attempt to keep Huawei out of US banks

Lawmakers have tried to curb Huawei’s access to US banks in the past, proposing a similar bill in 2020 when President Donald Trump was in office.

“We’ve made great strides in recent years at home and abroad in combatting Huawei’s malign attempts to dominate 5G and steal Americans’ data,” Cotton said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We cannot allow Huawei and the Chinese Communist Party to have access to Americans’ personal data and our country’s most sensitive defense systems,” he added.

In October, US prosecutors charged two Chinese intelligence officials with trying to tamper with the Huawei investigation. The two Chinese nationals had attempted to recruit a US law enforcement agent to work as their spy, but the recruit was actually working as an agent for the United States, prosecutors said.

Last month, the US Federal Communications Commission adopted rules banning new telecommunications equipment from Huawei.

TikTok also faces ban (again)

Also on Tuesday, Republican Senator Marco Rubio announced bipartisan legislation to ban China’s popular social media app TikTok, ratcheting up pressure on owner ByteDance Ltd amid US fears the app could be used to spy on Americans and censor content.

The legislation would block all transactions from any social media company in or under the influence of China and Russia, Rubio’s office said in a news release, adding that a companion bill in the US House of Representatives was sponsored by Republican congressman Mike Gallagher and Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi.

The bill comes as scrutiny of TikTok has grown in Washington in recent weeks, after a failed bid by the Trump administration to ban the video-sharing app.

At a hearing last month, FBI Director Chris Wray said TikTok’s US operations raise national security concerns, flagging the risk that the Chinese government could harness it to influence users or control their devices.

Alabama and Utah on Monday joined other US states prohibiting the use of TikTok on state government devices and computer networks due to national security concerns.

(Reporting by Baranjot Kaur in Bengaluru and Alexandra Alper; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Jonathan Oatis, Alexandra Hudson and Marguerita Choy)

Related article: US needs additional $3bn to fund removal of Huawei, ZTE kit

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