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House committee rejects Trump's defense of ZTE

Panel unanimously approves amendment upholding sanctions against the Chinese phone maker.

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Despite Trump's defense of ZTE, a House panel approved an amendment to a bill upholding sanctions against the Chinese phone maker.

Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images

The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday unanimously approved an amendment to a bill that would uphold sanctions against ZTE, rejecting President Donald Trump's defense of the embattled Chinese phone maker.

This amendment will "prevent a foreign company that is beholden to its government – and that ignores embargoes – from infiltrating the devices and networks that are now indispensable to American life," Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Maryland), the amendment's author, said in a statement

ZTE, the fourth-largest smartphone maker in the US, has been dealing with a US Commerce Department denial order that prevents American businesses from selling hardware or services to the company. The seven-year ban forced ZTE to shut down its "major operating activities." The ban followed the government's determination that ZTE violated terms of a 2017 settlement by failing to fire employees involved with illegally shipping US equipment to Iran and North Korea.

ZTE had been working to get the denial order overturned and had pegged its hopes on broader bilateral trade talks between the US and China.  On Sunday, Trump sent a surprising tweet that called for the Commerce Department to find "a way to get back into business, fast."

Trump followed up on Monday with a tweet that said ZTE "buys a big percentage of individual parts from US companies" and that the company is "reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi."

ZTE has become a critical part of the broader discussions between China and the US, the two largest economies in the world, over trade tensions and whether the two countries can prevent a trade war that could involve billions of dollars' worth of tariffs.

The White House and ZTE didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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