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Raimondo Should Tell China to Expect More Export Controls, Top Republicans Say

Republicans last week urged the Biden administration against meeting with Beijing to discuss semiconductor export controls, saying the U.S. should not negotiate its policies with China and should instead enact tougher restrictions. They specifically asked Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, who is considering a trip to China, to pledge that the U.S. plans to increase its export restrictions against the country.

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“We urge you, prior to your trip, to publicly clarify that U.S. export controls are non-negotiable, and that the [People’s Republic of China] should expect more, not less, U.S. export controls moving forward,” said top House Republicans Michael McCaul of Texas, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin and Young Kim of California and Sen. Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., in an Aug. 18 letter to Raimondo.

The letter comes after China last week said it would welcome a visit from Raimondo (see 2308170051) and after Bloomberg reported the trip could lead to the establishment of a new working group for officials from both sides to discuss U.S. export restrictions on advanced semiconductors. The administration on Oct. 7, 2022, released a sweeping set of China-related chip controls and is working on finalizing those rules (see 2210070049), although Raimondo said she doesn’t have a timeline for doing so (see 2307260071).

The lawmakers, which include the top Republicans on both the House Foreign Affairs and China Select committees, said it would be “deeply inappropriate” for the “senior-most U.S. government official in charge of export controls to let the PRC influence in any manner -- including be invited into working groups with China-U.S. national security controls on sensitive technologies.” They said China for “years” has “dangled” working groups as offers to American administrations “as though they were a meaningful concession,” adding that it's “time for U.S. official[s] to stop taking the bait.”

China has “no intention of abandoning” its military-civil fusion strategy or of allowing U.S. “export compliance officers” meaningful access to facilities in China,” the letter said. The Bureau of Industry and Security in December said China has, in fact, been more receptive to end-use checks after a BIS policy change that allowed the agency to move companies from its Unverified List to its more restrictive Entity List if BIS is unable to conduct an end-use check on those entities within 60 days (see 2212060059 and 2210070006).

The letter also said China remains set on its “whole-of-nation effort to achieve independence from western” chokepoint technologies and doesn’t plan to stop its “aggressive military buildup” or human rights violations against Uyghurs and other Muslim minority groups. “And yet,” the lawmakers said, “U.S. officials continue to behave as if meaningful progress in U.S.-China relations is one ‘working group’ away from a breakthrough.”

They said it’s “time for U.S. officials to accept that the China has no intention of abandoning its policies that led to expanded U.S. export controls in the first place.” A Commerce spokesperson didn’t comment.