China minister condemns US House report on Huawei, ZTE

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But Chen Deming shrugs off comments made by Barack Obama during election campaign.

China’s minister of commerce, Chen Deming, lashed out at a U.S. congressional report critical of two Chinese technology companies, but he shrugged off election campaign accusations from President Barack Obama.

Speaking to reporters Saturday, Mr. Chen said warnings by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee against Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. were “outrageous” and displayed a “Cold War mentality.”

He also suggested this could trigger a response from China.

“If you treat me like a Trojan horse, how do you expect me to respond?” he said in reply to a question.

The congressional report, issued last month, said the companies posed risks to U.S. national security because their equipment could become a vehicle for Chinese spying. The companies have denied the allegations.

But asked about President Obama’s insistence during the election campaign that his administration had been tough on unfair trade practices by China, Mr. Chen said: “We don’t take election campaign statements very seriously.”

President Obama took a tough rhetorical line with China during the campaign, largely to blunt criticism from Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who vowed to formally label China a currency manipulator.

The president trumpeted WTO complaints his administration had brought against China, accusing the country of unfair trade practices on tires and other products, and saying he had put “unprecedented trade pressure” on Beijing.

Mr. Chen also took issue with U.S. actions against Chinese solar panels, saying this would hurt both sides and repeating Beijing’s position that Chinese products were cheaper due to lower costs and better technology.

The U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled that U.S. solar-panel makers had been hurt by Chinese competitors that engaged in illegal dumping and received illegal subsidies, clearing the way for the U.S. Commerce Department to finalize preliminary tariffs. The department said last month that it planned to set tariffs at 24% to 36% for major Chinese panel makers and up to 250% for smaller companies.

Mr. Chen also took aim at Japan, which has been at loggerheads with Beijing over East China Sea islands that both sides claim but Japan administers.

The minister said Tokyo is to blame for trade fallout from the dispute, adding that he hopes Tokyo will “correct” its stance soon.

The longstanding territorial dispute between China and Japan over the islands flared up in September, spurring protests and a consumer boycott of Japanese products. Japanese car makers have been among the hardest hit, seeing their China sales slump sharply.