NEW YORK -- Huawei Technologies should not be exploited as leverage in trade talks with Beijing, a bipartisan pair of China hawks on the Senate Intelligence Committee cautioned the Trump administration Thursday.
Virginia Democrat and committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner joined with Florida Republican Marco Rubio to warn of the security and privacy risks from the Chinese giant's telecom hardware in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, expressing "deep concern" that the administration may make concessions on Huawei to "achieve a favorable outcome" in the negotiations.
"As you know, Chinese telecommunications equipment poses a threat that intelligence and military officials assess will only become more acute as energy infrastructure, transportation networks and other critical functions move to 5G networks and as millions more Internet of Things (IoT) devices are connected," Warner and Rubio wrote.
"In no way should Huawei be used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations," they argued. "Instead, the U.S. should redouble our efforts to present our allies with compelling data on why the long-term network security and maintenance costs on Chinese telecommunications equipment offset any short-term cost savings."
The letter came after Trump reiterated Monday that Huawei is a threat but could be included in trade negotiations. Warner and Rubio quoted his comment from May that the company is "something that's very dangerous" but could be "possibly included in some form of or some part of a trade deal."
The Commerce Department has added Huawei to its Entity List, restricting American technology exports to the company.
U.S. efforts to persuade other countries not to use 5G infrastructure equipment from Huawei are "undermined by concerns that we are not sincere," Warner and Rubio wrote in Thursday's letter. They cited European concerns that the Trump administration will "soften its position" to "gain leverage in trade talks," as it did last June when it announced a deal to lift the seven-year tech export ban targeting ZTE.
The State Department and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative did not immediately respond to requests for comment.