This week, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, continued his efforts against Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, backing U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s, R-Tex., call to prohibit that company from working on the nation’s energy infrastructure.
Cornyn and Rubio were joined by U.S. Sens. Richard Burr, R-NC, Susan Collins, R-Maine, Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Angus King, I-Maine, Jim Risch, R-Id., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Ben Sasse, R-Neb. and Mark Warner, D-Va., in sending a letter to U.S. Energy Sec. Rick Perry and U.S. Homeland Security Sec. Kirstjen Nielsen on the matter on Monday.
“We write to express our concern over the national security threat products manufactured by Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. (Huawei) pose to our nation’s critical energy infrastructure. We understand that Huawei, the world’s largest manufacturer of solar inverters, is attempting to access our domestic residential and commercial markets. Congress recently acted to block Huawei from our telecommunications equipment market due to concerns with the company’s links to China’s intelligence services. We urge similar action to protect critical U.S. electrical systems and infrastructure,” the senators wrote.
“Huawei has recently become the world’s largest maker of inverters - the sophisticated control systems that have allowed the rapid expansion of residential and utility scale energy production. Both large-scale photovoltaic systems and those used by homeowners, school districts, and businesses are equally vulnerable to cyberattacks. Our federal government should consider a ban on the use of Huawei inverters in the United States and work with state and local regulators to raise awareness and mitigate potential threats,” the senators added.
“We urge you to work with all federal, state and local regulators, as well as the hundreds of independent power producers and electricity distributors nation-wide to ensure our systems are protected,” the senators wrote in conclusion. “We stand ready and willing to provide any assistance you need to secure our critical electricity infrastructure. Thank you for your attention to this important matter of national security.”
Rubio has been active in targeting companies close to the Chinese regime in recent months.
When news broke at the end of last year that Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, was arrested in Canada for violating sanctions imposed on Iran, Rubio pushed for her to be extradited to the United States. Rubio also took to the national airwaves, appearing on “Face the Nation” on CBS in December, insisting companies like Huawei and ZTE that are directed by the Chinese regime pose a threat to American security.
“We have to understand, Chinese companies are not like American companies,” Rubio told CBS. “We can’t even get Apple to crack an iPhone for us in a terrorist investigation. There isn’t a single company in China that doesn’t have to do whatever the government tells them to do. They are legally required to do it, and trust me if they don’t do it, they’ll find a new CEO to run that company, or a new company to take that company’s place. When the Chinese ask a telecoms company, ‘We want you to turn over all the data you’ve gathered in a country you’re operating in,’ they will do it. No court order, nothing like that, they will just do it. They have to. We need to understand that.
“I think both Huawei, ZTE and multiple other Chinese companies pose a threat to our national interests — our national economic interests, and our national security interests. And the Huawei case, what they’re accused of here, what she’s accused of, is violating the Iran sanctions. So at a minimum, we should be doing to them what we did to ZTE when they violated the sanctions law. Which included not having access to American suppliers. And I hope that’s what will happen. That’s what we’re encouraging the administration to do as soon as possible,” Rubio added.
Last year, Rubio and Cotton teamed up to bring out the “Defending U.S. Government Communications Act” to stop the federal government from contracting with ZTE, Huawei and other companies connected to the Chinese regime.
“Chinese telecom companies, like Huawei, are directly linked to the Chinese government and communist party,” said Rubio when the bill was introduced. “For national security reasons, we cannot allow a foreign adversary to embed their technology in U.S. government systems or critical infrastructure.”
“Huawei is effectively an arm of the Chinese government, and it’s more than capable of stealing information from U.S. officials by hacking its devices,” said Cotton. “There are plenty of other companies that can meet our technology needs, and we shouldn’t make it any easier for China to spy on us.”
Rubio has been pushing against Chinese telecommunications companies working with the federal government. In June, Rubio wrote U.S. Education Sec. Betty DeVos warning her that Huawei is working with American colleges and universities and could be a security threat.
Back in August, Rubio paired up with U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., to bring out the “Fair Trade with China Enforcement Act” which, they insist, will “safeguard American workers and businesses from China’s economic cheating and unfair trade practices.”
Rubio’s and Baldwin’s bill would stop the sale of national security sensitive technology and intellectual property to China, ensure China is taxed for its holdings on the U.S. national debt and other investments in America and ensure the federal government doesn’t engage in businesses like Huawei and ZTE which are connected to the Chinese regime and have been accused of aiding in espionage.
Rubio offered his rationale for why he had brought out the legislation.
“As China undertakes a strategic effort to supplant and undermine America, we must protect our country by correcting an economic relationship that has become increasingly unbalanced,” Rubio said. “Our bipartisan bill will do just that by targeting China’s tools of economic aggression to guard the American people against its nefarious influence on national and economic security. How America responds to the growing threats posed by China is the single most important geopolitical issue of our time, and will define the 21st century.”
The senators noted the trade deficit with China has quadrupled since that nation joined the WTO back in 2001. They also pointed to reports that Chinese companies steal around $600 billion annually in intellectual property from American companies.
Back in September, Rubio paired up with U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Mary., to bring out the “ZTE Enforcement Review and Oversight (ZERO) Act.” The bill forces imposes ZTE, which has been accused of stealing technology, “all probationary conditions in the Commerce Department’s deal to lift the denial order’s seven-year ban against the export of U.S. parts and components to ZTE" and ensure “if the Commerce Secretary cannot regularly certify ZTE’s full compliance with the deal and with relevant U.S. export controls and sanctions laws, the denial order’s crippling punishments will be reinstated against ZTE.” Rubio and Van Hollen brought the bill back earlier this month.