Congress does two things extremely well: nothing at all, and overreact. The latter was fully displayed this week, as my colleagues in the Senate frantically passed legislation to reverse the Trump administration’s decision to strike a trade deal with Chinese telecommunications company ZTE. This overreaction, per usual in Washington, is a bad idea.
According to the United States Department of Justice, between January 2010 and January 2016, ZTE directly shipped approximately 32 million items of U.S. origin to Iran without obtaining the proper export licenses from the U.S. government. At the same time, ZTE knowingly committed hundreds of sanctions violations involving the shipment of telecommunications equipment to North Korea. Reports indicate these shipments contained everything from Qualcomm chips to Google’s mobile operating system. These extremely troubling discoveries resulted in the Trump administration’s Commerce Department issuing an order restricting all trade between the United States and ZTE.
Chinese President Xi Jinping immediately begged President Trump to revoke the order and save the company. Seeing an opportunity to negotiate, President Trump proclaimed he would work with the Department of Commerce to reinstate ZTE’s trading ability with the United States if ZTE and China met certain obligations. On June 7, President Trump and Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross reached a deal that would allow ZTE to resume trade with the United States in exchange for ZTE paying a $1 billion fine. Additionally, Secretary Ross mandated ZTE change its management, allow trade enforcement officers to monitor the Chinese company from within the corporation, and put $400 million in escrow, which the company would forfeit in violation of the new agreement.
The president’s critics in the Senate immediately denounced the deal. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the President was “dead wrong” in his decision to reinstate ZTE’s trading abilities. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) called it “an awful, awful deal.” Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) referred to the deal as an “incoherent policy utterance.”
There is no doubt ZTE’s actions, like many Chinese government dominated companies, are inexcusable. However, President Trump’s decision to punish the company is justified and firm. Unlike Congress, President Trump is better suited to lead the charge against ZTE because he can negotiate with foreign leaders and companies directly. The Senate cannot. In fact, the Senate, which can’t even approve the simplest political nominee, has trouble negotiating with itself. President Trump and Secretary Ross have been in direct talks with ZTE and the Chinese government for some time. They understand the facts at issue and the nature of the punishment. By throwing itself into the conversation now, the Senate is attempting to circumvent the president’s progress, without acknowledging it has done nothing at all regarding this issue for more than six years.
President Trump has shown he is serious and determined to rebalance our trading relationship with the rest of the world, and most importantly to achieve a deal eliminating our nation’s $375 billion trade deficit with China. A laudable goal, and one we would be more likely to realize if Congress would act as a steadfast partner to accomplish it.
On trade, let the President do his work. Better yet, support it.
Darrell Issa is the U.S. Representative for California’s 49th congressional district. He is a Republican.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.