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EXCLUSIVE Senator Cotton delays vote on Biden’s pick for powerful China job at Commerce

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WASHINGTON, Oct 14 (Reuters) – Republican Senator Tom Cotton is holding up a vote to substantiate Alan Estevez because the U.S. Commerce Department’s undersecretary for trade and safety till he will get solutions to tough questions on expertise exports to China.

In a letter dated Oct. 14 and seen by Reuters, Cotton asks Estevez to decide to strengthening U.S. restrictions on exporting semiconductor software program and expertise to China and to accelerating the roll-out of latest guidelines to tighten export controls for superior applied sciences.

The letter, additionally signed by Republican senator Bill Hagerty, asks Estevez to contemplate extending a Trump administration rule – that presently solely applies to Huawei (HWT.UL) – to blacklisted Chinese companies with hyperlinks to the army or human rights violations. That rule additional restricted entry for the Chinese telecoms large to superior semiconductor chips.

The job at the Commerce Department oversees exports to all nations however selections over cutting-edge expertise exports to China have given the place great energy over Chinese firms dependent on U.S. expertise in recent times.

The Department of Commerce didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

Many trade watchers noticed the selection of Estevez, a former Defense Department official with a restricted observe file on China, as a protected guess.

But Cotton – or every other senator – can maintain up a fast-track affirmation course of that requires consent by all 100 senators.

Since the Republican has not had the possibility to query the nominee, he’s pausing the affirmation course of till he receives solutions to the questions posed within the letter, a Cotton staffer mentioned.

Republicans aren’t the one ones holding up Estevez’s nomination. Democratic Senator Bob Menendez got here out in opposition to Estevez when the Senate Banking Committee took up his affirmation and in addition opposes expediting a remaining full Senate vote.

His opposition stems from the previous Pentagon official’s response to questions relating to returning oversight of U.S. firearms exports to the State Department.

“I was not satisfied with Mr. Estevez’s non-answers as to whether the Biden administration was planning to fulfill President Biden’s campaign promise and finally reverse the Trump administration’s dangerous stripping of oversight authority of U.S. firearm sales from the State Department’s Munitions List to the Commerce Department,” Menendez mentioned in a press release.

The Trump administration transferred jurisdiction on exports of semiautomatic pistols, assault rifles and associated firearms from State to the less-restrictive Commerce Control List, which additionally eradicated congressional assessment for such gross sales.

Estevez can be in good firm. Other Biden nominees are being held up by Senator Ted Cruz, who’s utilizing the method to halt a Russia-to-Germany gasoline pipeline, White House officers and Democrats in Congress say.

Estevez testified final month earlier than the Senate banking committee, which later voted in favor of advancing his bid to the total Senate.

During the listening to and below questioning from Hagerty, Estevez mentioned he anticipated to maintain Huawei on a blacklist until “things change” and pledged to “look at” Honor, a former unit of Huawei, to see whether or not the Chinese telecoms large was utilizing the spun-off firm to attenuate or circumvent its personal blacklist designation. Republican senators have known as on the Biden administration to blacklist Honor.

In the letter on Thursday, the senators additionally requested for Estevez to say whether or not he thought the worldwide unfold of Huawei Cloud Services posed an information safety and privateness concern for the United States, and whether or not Honor must be positioned on the Commerce Department’s commerce blacklist.

Reporting by Karen Freifeld and Alexandra Alper, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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