According to reports, members of Congress and other U.S. officials have raised the possibility of imposing U.S. financial and/or immigration sanctions on Chinese officials for human rights abuses in China's Xinjiang region. Quoted in the Washington Post, "Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary…
Measures to curb foreign access to U.S. technology have taken and will likely take various forms that will cut across industries and legal disciplines. Among them, as discussed below, are restrictions on foreign access to and influence on U.S. technology through (1) foreign investment, (2) supply chain exclusions, (3) limits on participation in academic and other research, (4) legal or political curbs on U.S. technology access or transfers through third countries, and (5) countermeasures against foreign control of raw materials essential to technological manufacturing and innovation.
The ZTE case puts into focus the Trump Administration’s apparent strategy to use U.S. sanctions, along with anti-corruption and anti-money laundering laws, as trade war weapons, specifically as “economic tools” and “tools of economic diplomacy” that “can be important parts of broader strategies to deter, coerce, and constrain adversaries.”
Some Congress members are lobbying the Administration to impose human rights sanctions on Chinese officials and companies responsible for or complicit in abuses against China’s Uighur Muslim minority and other minorities. Two companies named, Dahua Technology and Hikvision, are very large, China-based global firms that produce surveillance products and systems. The bottom line is that the tech industry should take note of the development (even if no sanctions are imposed), as it foreshadows the legal and reputation risk issues they will, without doubt, face in connection with tech-enabled abuses, privacy encroachments, and other conduct by consumers of tech products and services.
The sentiments expressed by Senator Rubio and others reflect commercial, competition, policy, and strategic concerns held by business, policy makers, defense and national security officials, and others about China and Chinese firms like ZTE and Huawei. But when raised in the context of and as a justification for a specific legal enforcement action, the sentiments blur the lines between what should primarily be an enforcement based on facts and applicable laws, rather than an instrument for advancing wider policy objectives that are not specifically advanced by the laws applicable to the conduct for which ZTE was penalized. And, while Secretary Ross' stated rationale to impose the harsher penalty to change ZTE's behavior may have been sound, the recommendation of the career professionals with expertise in sanctions and export controls enforcement should, perhaps, have carried the day. Secretary Ross' description of the process leading to the export ban and the mess that has followed it give more reason to ask whether, in the first place, the export ban was the appropriate remedy as a matter of applicable laws and the objectives served by them.
Much of the talk of trade war between the United States and China, and perhaps other countries, has focused on traditional trade measures and counter-measures like tariffs that strike at the core of international trade: most basically, the movement of goods and services across international borders. But there are two additional fronts of a U.S.-China trade war (thus far): intellectual property and the use of U.S. sanctions and other laws to "coerce and deter" economic rivals like China.
On May 17, the House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a measure to block the Commerce Department from using appropriated funds to alter the export ban (i.e., the “denial order”) that the agency activated against ZTE on April 15, 2018. The ZTE measure was approved as an amendment to the fiscal year 2019 bill funding the Departments of Commerce and Justice, Science, and Related Agencies (“Commerce Appropriations Bill”), which was approved by the Appropriations Committee on May 17.
Notably, in the two pages of the NSS that are devoted to the National Security Strategy in the Africa context, none of Africa’s 54 nations are mentioned, but China is named twice. The NSS notes with concern China’s “expanding . . . economic military presence in Africa, growing from a small investor in the continent two decades ago into Africa’s largest trading partner today.” China’s methods and influence in Africa are described unflatteringly. “Some Chinese practices,” the NSS states bluntly, “undermine Africa’s long-term development by corrupting elites, dominating extractive industries, and locking countries into unsustainable and opaque debts and commitments.”
The OBOR, even if partially successful, would, as many analysts and commentators have noted, alter the global trade landscape, if not “shake up” the global economic order in place since the end of World War II. Less discussed (except, for example, in this 2015 MassPoint Occasional Note) is one likely secondary effect of the OBOR and other trade and finance initiatives that are not centered on the U.S. dollar or the Bretton Woods system: the likely curtailment of the global reach of U.S. law.
The dismantling of Obama-era laws and regulations, broader deregulation, and economic and political nationalism were and remain themes of the 2016 U.S. Election and presidential transition period. Donald Trump and members of the incoming Republican-controlled Congress have singled out for repeal or significant modification the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, along with trade, immigration, foreign affairs, and environmental laws, regulations, and policies. If taken, these actions will not only effect legal changes in specific areas, they will create legal and policy voids that may be filled by U.S. states and localities, foreign governments and multilateral and non-governmental organizations, and the private sector. Five legal and business issues and dynamics to watch in 2017 are highlighted here.