Trump Administration Mulling ‘Emergency’ Powers to Block Chinese Tech Investments

April 20, 2018

John Carney

The administration has explored the possibility of using the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to impose limits on investments from China in sensitive technology, Heath Tarbert, assistant treasury secretary for International markets and Investment Policy, said at a conference in Washington, DC.

Invoking a national economic emergency would give the president broad authority to restrict foreign investments in areas such as semiconductors and next-generation 5G wireless technology. The Trump administration has made blocking Chinese acquisition of U.S. technology a major focus of its trade agenda.

This week, the Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to prohibit U.S. wireless carriers from using federal universal-service subsidies to buy equipment from Chinese manufacturers that the U.S. sees as posing a national security threat. That rule will go through a public comment period before a final vote to adopt it. On Monday, the Commerce Department banned U.S. companies from selling parts and software to China’s ZTE Corporation, saying the company had breached a settlement agreement over allegations of violating sanctions against North Korea.

The potential crackdown on Chinese investments is the latest development in the administration’s “Section 301” investigation into the alleged Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property and forced technology transfers. Treasury has until May to deliver a plan for investment restrictions to the White House.