(Adds comments by Biden’s Commerce nominee, industry background)
WASHINGTON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the U.S. Commerce Department moved closer to confirmation on Wednesday after winning approval by the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee in a 21-3 vote.
At her Jan. 26 confirmation hearing, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo vowed to protect U.S. telecommunications networks from Chinese companies, but refused to commit to keeping telecommunications company Huawei Technologies on a U.S. economic blacklist. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker, a Republican, said on Wednesday he was concerned that she did not state unequivocally that the Biden administration would keep Huawei on the Entity List.
The Commerce Department under former President Donald Trump took aim at China on numerous fronts, adding dozens of Chinese companies to a trade blacklist, including Huawei, the country’s top chipmaker SMIC, Hikvision and drone manufacturer SZ DJI Technology.
In written responses to questions, Raimondo said she had “no reason to believe” that Chinese companies listed should not be there.
“We should have no illusions about China’s objectives, which I believe are to undercut America’s longstanding technological advantage and to displace America as the global leader in cutting-edge research and development and the industries of the future,” she said. “The national security and economic consequences of allowing that to happen are simply unacceptable.”
If confirmed, Raimondo will inherit the Trump administration’s unsuccessful effort to bar U.S. app stores run by Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google from offering Chinese-owned TikTok or WeChat for download.
Three U.S. judges blocked Commerce Department orders issued under Trump that sought to bar new downloads and impose restrictions on WeChat and TikTok that would effectively prohibit their use in the United States. Those rulings are on appeal.
Under pressure from the U.S. government, ByteDance has been in talks for months to finalize a deal with Walmart Inc and Oracle Corp to shift TikTok’s U.S. assets into a new entity to address U.S. security concerns.
Raimondo also said in written answers she does not support nationalization of a 5G telecommunications network. She added, “I am unaware of any present intention to pursue a government-owned telecommunications network.”
Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Editing by Matthew Lewis