Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday defended President Trump’s request to ask the Commerce Department to take a second look at remedies imposed on Chinese smartphone maker ZTE.
Mnuchin said the president’s directive is not “a function of back peddling,” rather it’s similar to other times world leaders have called Trump to discuss business matters.
“This was not a quid-pro-quo or anything else,” said Mnuchin testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the agency’s budget request. “This was merely President Xi asking President Trump to look into this, which he’s done. Any changes to this will fully support the mandate of making sure our sanctions and our technology are protected.”
Mnuchin made clear that ZTE was a Commerce Department enforcement case, but the administration takes seriously national security issues tied the company.
“I can assure you whatever the Commerce Department decides, the intelligence community has been part of the briefings and that we will make sure we will enforce national security issues,” he said.
He declined to comment on what alternative remedies Commerce may be considering.
“The objective was not to put ZTE out of business. The objective was to make sure that they abide by our sanctions programs,” said Mnuchin.
Separately, Mnuchin said proposed steel and aluminum tariffs on China “will remain enforced. He said that has not been part of ongoing US-China trade discussions. “Those are not being touched,” he said.