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Biden commerce secretary pick won’t promise to keep Huawei on blacklist

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While pledging a tough line on China, President Joe Biden‘s nominee for secretary of commerce would not promise to keep the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei on the United States’ economic blacklist.

“We can’t have the Chinese or really anyone having a backdoor into our network and compromising in any way our national or economic security,” Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) said at her Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday.

When talking about Huawei, Raimondo said she would “use the full tool kit at my disposal […] to protect Americans and our network from Chinese interference or any kind of backdoor influence into our network.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) brought up that Huawei was one of many Chinese companies that had been placed on the Bureau of Industry and Security’s entities list under the Trump administration for their role in the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) mass surveillance and repression of Uighur Muslims. On his last day in the department, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labeled the actions of the Chinese government as “genocide,” a view which Biden and his newly appointed Secretary of State Antony Blinken share.

When asked by Cruz if she would promise to maintain those companies on the blacklist, Raimondo said that “I will commit to working with you on that, and I certainly agree with you that the entities list is a powerful tool in the commerce secretary’s tool kit to shore up American national security.”

She was then asked about Huawei, to which Raimondo said that “I will review the policy, consult with you, consult with industry, consult with our allies, and make an assessment as to what’s best for American national and economic security.”

Cruz didn’t seem to like Raimondo’s answer, replying: “Well, I will say that there is chatter in Washington that the Biden administration is contemplating going easy on China and removing companies from the entities list—I certainly hope that does not happen, because I think that would be profoundly contrary to the national security interest of the United States.”

Later, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse (R) published a statement blasting this, saying: “This is ridiculous: Huawei didn’t change because America has a new President. Huawei is still the Chinese Communist Party’s tech puppet and a serious threat to national security.”

While White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday underscored “strategic patience” in the Biden administration’s interagency review process and its outreach to Republicans, Democrats, and global allies about its China strategy, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe felt that patience wasn’t the answer. On Monday, Ratcliffe told Fox News that the U.S. stance toward China needed action, not patience, according to The Washington Examiner. During her hearing, Raimondo said multiple times that the Biden administration was engaged in a broad review on how to tackle China.

Back in early December, Ratcliffe labeled China the “greatest threat” to freedom since World War II in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

While no vote was taken immediately on Raimondo’s nomination, Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) predicted she would soon win confirmation, according to The Wall Street Journal.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Analysis: Biden unlikely to sanction Iran’s oil exports, gas prices ‘critical during an election year’

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Analysts say President Joe Biden is unlikely to “prompt dramatic sanctions action on Iran’s oil exports” due to “worries about boosting oil prices and angering top buyer China” according to Reuters.

Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, House Republican Representative Steve Scalise, said the administration had made it easier for Iran to sell its oil, generating revenues that were being used to “go fund terrorist activity.”

The Biden administration has maintained for months that among its primary goals is to keep the Gaza conflict between terror group Hamas and Israel from turning into a wider regional war. However, House Republican leaders accused President Joe Biden of failing to enforce existing measures and said they would take up this week a series of bills to sharpen sanctions on Iran.

Kimberly Donovan, a sanctions and anti-money laundering expert at the Atlantic Council, said that oil-related sanctions have not been strictly enforced in the past couple of years.

“I would not expect the administration to tighten enforcement in response to Iran’s missile and drone attacks against Israel over the weekend, mainly for concerns (that) could lead to increases in oil prices,” she said.

“The price of oil and ultimately the prices of gas at the pump become critical during an election year.”
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