A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers introduced bills that would ban the sale of U.S. chips and other components to Huawei Technologies Co, ZTE Corp or other Chinese telecommunications companies that violate U.S. sanctions or export control laws.
The proposed law was introduced shortly before the Wall Street Journal reported federal prosecutors were investigating allegations that Huawei stole trade secrets from T-Mobile U.S. Inc and other U.S. businesses.
The Journal said that an indictment could be coming soon on allegations that Huawei stole T-Mobile technology, called Tappy, which mimicked human fingers and was used to test smartphones.
Huawei said in a statement the company and T-Mobile settled their disputes in 2017 following a U.S. jury verdict that found “neither damage, unjust enrichment nor willful and malicious conduct by Huawei in T-Mobile’s trade secret claim”.
The legislation is the latest in a long list of actions taken to fight what some in the Trump administration call China’s cheating through intellectual property theft, illegal corporate subsidies and rules hampering U.S. corporations that want to sell their goods in China.
In November 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice unveiled an initiative to investigate China’s trade practices with a goal of bringing trade secret theft cases.
At that time, Washington had announced an indictment against Chinese chipmaker Fujian Jinhua Integrated Circuit Co Ltd for stealing trade secrets from U.S. semiconductor company Micron Technology relating to research and development of memory storage devices.
Jinhua, which has denied any wrongdoing, was put on a list of entities that cannot buy goods from U.S. firms.
On Capitol Hill, Senator Tom Cotton and Representative Mike Gallagher, both Republicans, along with Senator Chris Van Hollen and Representative Ruben Gallego, both Democrats, introduced the bills that would require the president to ban the export of U.S. components to any Chinese telecommunications company that violates U.S. sanctions or export control laws.
The bills specifically cite ZTE and Huawei, both of which are viewed with suspicion in the United States because of fears that their switches and other gear could be used to spy on Americans. Both have also been accused of failing to respect U.S. sanctions on Iran.