President Joe Biden’s administration authorised more than $23 billion in licences for businesses to export US goods and technology to blacklisted Chinese firms in the first quarter of 2022, a Republican lawmaker said on Tuesday.
“Overwhelmingly, (the Commerce Department) continues to grant licences that allow critical US technology to be sold to our adversaries,” Republican Representative Michael McCaul, chair of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said.
“How does this align with your statement that ‘we’re doing everything within (the Commerce Department’s) power to prevent sensitive US technologies from getting in the hands of (Chinese) military, intelligence services or other parties?”
McCaul said the Commerce Department, which oversees export controls, denied only 8% of licence requests to sell to companies on the US trade blacklist during the January to March period last year.
He made his remarks at a hearing on combating the generational challenge of Chinese aggression.
Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Gregory Meeks cautioned against reading too much into the licensing numbers. The approval and denial data provides no information about the transactions, he said.
Shipments to Huawei ‘under assessment’
Another official told the hearing that some tech shipments to China’s blacklisted telecommunications equipment maker Huawei were “under assessment.”
US Commerce Department official Alan Estevez, who oversees US export policy, told the hearing that a Trump-era policy allows Huawei to receive some US technology below the “5G level”.
“A licensing rule of the previous administration still stands for Huawei that allows things below 5G, below cloud level, to go, and I will say that all those things are under assessment,” Estevez said.
Huawei was added to a trade blacklist known as the Entity List by former Republican President Donald Trump in 2019.
The action against the Chinese tech giant came amid allegations of sanctions violations, spying capabilities, and intellectual property theft.
Suppliers of most companies added to the Entity List see their requests to ship to the targeted firms denied. But the Trump administration implemented a special policy for Huawei, denying it access to some things like 5G chips but allowing it to receive other items, such as 4G chips.
‘Blacklisted firm aided Russia’s Wagner Group’
The data comes a week after the Biden administration added new Chinese companies to the trade blacklist for aiding Russia’s military.
During the congressional hearing a Biden administration official noted that one of the Chinese firms blacklisted earlier this month had aided Russia’s Wagner Group.
Chinese satellite firm Spacety provided satellite images to Russian mercenary company Wagner Group, Daniel Kritenbrink, the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, said.
’TikTok a threat’
The Commerce Department’s Estevez also described Chinese-owned short video app TikTok as a “threat.”
He noted that a powerful committee that reviews foreign investments in the United States was dealing with how to handle the popular social media app.
TikTok said in a statement the company has been working with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States “for over two years on a plan to address national security concerns about TikTok in the US”
China, meanwhile, slammed US for its 30-day deadline to agencies to remove TikTok from phones and devices provided to federal employees.
“How unsure of itself can the world’s top superpower be to fear a young people’s favorite app like that?” China’s Foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said in a press briefing.
“The US government should respect the principles of market economy and fair competition, stop suppressing the companies and provide an open, fair and non-discriminatory environment for foreign companies in the US,” she said.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena