Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Thursday authored a bipartisan letter to President Donald Trump, sharing their concern that the U.S. Department of Commerce has begun issuing export licenses for U.S. companies to commence business with Huawei Technologies, disregarding the considerable risk these license approvals could create for security.
The letter stated: “On May 16, 2019, Huawei—the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world—and 68 of its affiliates were added to the Department of Commerce’s Entity List for reasons of national security. To date, the Entity List includes 115 Huawei companies. This designation serves to effectively prohibit the export and transfer of certain U.S. goods and technology to Huawei.”
The senators wrote that they are opposed to resuming business with Huawei, and the November decision by the Department of Commerce “that it would be extending the Temporary General License for U.S. companies engaged in specific business activity with Huawei.”
They highlighted that approval of additional permanent licenses without assessment is a national security risk.
The lawmakers are concerned that the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross “said previously that the Department will approve ‘quite a few’ of the license requests that were received, of which there are nearly 300.”
The letter pointed to the fact that President Trump has said himself that he does not want to do business with Huawei. They also pointed out that Huawei has ties to the Chinese Communist Party and “the Chinese government is thought to exercise considerable influence over Huawei, in particular.”
They stated issuing these licenses will create a serious threat to the telecommunication infrastructure as well as overall national security.
The senators requested that, “The Department of Commerce suspend the granting of licenses to U.S. companies until providing Congress with a report outlining specific criteria for determining whether or not the approval of any license poses a national security threat.”
The senators also asked that, “Congressional leadership and relevant committees be notified prior to the issuance of any licenses to U.S. firms to sell components to Huawei and its affiliates.”
U.S. officials and experts have previously said Huawei’s products could be used by the Chinese regime for spying or to disrupt communication networks due to the company’s close ties with the Chinese military. Critics have also said that Chinese laws compel Chinese companies to cooperate with intelligence agencies when asked.
Although Huawei claims it has no ties with the Chinese regime, the company’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, was an officer at China’s Ministry of Security, the country’s top espionage agency. Sun Yafang, who served as Huawei’s CEO from 1998 to 2018, also worked for the same agency.
A July study by Christopher Balding, an associate professor at Fulbright University Vietnam, analyzed the leaked CVs of thousands of Huawei employees and found that about 100 staff members had links to Chinese military or intelligence agencies.
The other lawmakers who signed the letter are: Sen. Chris Van Hollen, (D-Md.), Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nev.), Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mont.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.).