A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to prevent Chinese telecom giant Huawei from accessing the U.S. financial system.
The “NETWORKS Act” would impose sanctions on foreign telecommunications companies suspected to be engaged in economic or industrial espionage against American companies. The bill was co-authored by Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) co-sponsored the bill.
“We’ve made great strides in recent years at home and abroad in combatting Huawei’s malign attempts to dominate 5G and steal Americans’ data,” Cotton said in a statement. “However, the fight is not finished. Huawei is an arm of Chinese intelligence. We cannot allow Huawei and the Chinese Communist Party to have access to Americans’ personal data and our country’s most sensitive defense systems. We must address the dire threat these Chinese companies pose to our national security.”
“Foreign companies that spy on the U.S. and violate our laws should face severe consequences,” Van Hollen added. “Huawei is a repeat offender. This bipartisan bill will bolster our national defenses by further sanctioning Huawei and other similar bad actors seeking to undermine our security.”
The bill directs the president to use his sanctions authority under International Emergency Economic Powers Act to block foreign individuals from making property transactions in the United States. Specifically, the bill targets “foreign persons” who develop fifth generation (5G) or future generation telecommunications technology, and engage in economic or industrial espionage or other illicit activities in the U.S. Limited exceptions are made for the importation of goods.
The president may also issue waivers of sanctions for individuals, for renewable periods of up to 90 days, for national security reasons.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration investigated Huawei over concerns that the Chinese tech giant was siphoning data from military bases and missile silos from cell towers that use the company’s devices.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr expressed “very real concern” that the cell towers could function as a sort of early warning system in the event of an ICBM strike. Carr told Reuters at the time that cell towers near Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana run on Huawei devices. Similarly, Nebraska Public Service Commissioner Crystal Rhoades told the outlet that cell towers operated by a local carrier called Viaero run on Huawei equipment, which could compromise missile silos at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming.
In November, the FCC banned Huawei and several other Chinese companies from importing and selling some technologies seen as threats to national security.
The bill to ban Huawei comes amid a similar effort by bipartisan lawmakers to block Chinese-owned social media platform TikTok. Senator Marco Rubio introduced the legislation after announcing plans to do so last month with Representative Mike Gallagher (R-WI). Gallagher and Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) introduced paired legislation in the House as well.
The Senate bill is called the Averting the National Threat of Internet Surveillance, Oppressive Censorship and Influence, and Algorithmic Learning by the Chinese Communist Party Act (ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act) and would “block and prohibit all transactions in all property and interests in property of” a social media company that is based in or “organized under the laws of a country of concern.”
A company would also be eligible for blocking if it is owned or controlled by a “country of concern,” among other criteria.
Charlotte Pence Bond contributed to this report.