U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., signed on a letter led by U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, to President Donald Trump “expressing deep concern that the U.S. Department of Commerce has begun issuing export licenses to U.S. firms looking to resume business with Huawei Technologies—despite the significant threats these license approvals pose to our national security.” A dozen other senators also signed the letter.
The senators wrote that the approval of these export licenses would undermine the original intent of the Entity List designation, allowing Huawei to continue to pose a serious threat to U.S. telecommunications infrastructure and national security more broadly.
The letter, which was sent out on Thursday, is below:
Dear Mr. President:
We write to express our concern that the Department of Commerce has begun to issue licenses to some U.S. firms that conduct business with Huawei Technologies. Given the security risks posed by Huawei’s operations in the U.S., we request that you take immediate action to suspend the approval of such licenses and ensure Congress is appropriately informed about the license approval process and related national security implications going forward.
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.
On November 18, 2019, the Department of Commerce announced that it would be extending the Temporary General License for U.S. companies engaged in specific business activity with Huawei. While we disagree with this decision, we are even more concerned that the approval of additional, more permanent licenses will allow Huawei to fully resume its engagement with certain U.S. firms without an adequate assessment of the risks to national security.
It is our understanding that the Department of Commerce has begun to send out 20-day intent to deny letters and some approvals for specific licenses for U.S. companies to sell components to Huawei. Though licenses are to be granted under a presumption of denial, Secretary Ross said previously that the Department will approve “quite a few” of the license requests that were received, of which there are nearly 300.
Mr. President, Secretary Ross has expressed that this decision was made to implement your G-20 Summit directive announced this June. However, you have said yourself that you did not want the U.S. doing business with Huawei. National security experts widely agree that Chinese companies cooperate heavily with the Chinese Communist Party, and the Chinese government is thought to exercise considerable influence over Huawei, in particular.
Consequently, we believe that the approval of these export licenses would undermine the original intent of the Entity List designation, allowing Huawei to continue to pose a serious threat to U.S. telecommunications infrastructure and national security more broadly.
We therefore request:
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.
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.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.