By Alexandra Alper and Karen Freifeld
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican Senator Tom Cotton has loosened his grip on President Joe Biden’s nominee for a key position in the US-China tech battle after the official said he was “aggressively” cutting exports, according to an aide to Cotton. of technology to Beijing and a document seen by Reuters.
The decision removes a hurdle to final confirmation of the vote on the nomination of Alan Estevez as Undersecretary of the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) at the United States Department of Commerce, but it is unclear whether Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who was against the candidate in a committee vote, let the process proceed quickly.
Estevez, a former Pentagon official, was nominated in July to the position at BIS, the agency that oversees US exports and is at the center of the US-China technology war.
But Cotton put a “stop” on a final Senate confirmation vote last month, demanding answers to written questions to assess whether Estevez China would take a hard line. An aide to Cotton told Reuters on Monday that the Arkansas senator removed his hold after receiving a letter from the candidate.
In a written response dated Oct. 29 and seen by Reuters, Estevez said he would do his best to accelerate the rollout of new rules for advanced technologies and, where appropriate, strengthen U.S. restrictions on sales of semiconductor software and technology. .
He also promised to consider a rule that would extend overseas sales of semiconductor chips to Huawei Technologies, the Chinese manufacturer of telecommunications equipment blacklisted by the United States, to other Chinese companies associated with the military or human rights violations.
“I will not hesitate to aggressively use the tools available at BIS to control the export of technologies that could harm our national security and foreign policy interests,” Estevez wrote in his response to Cotton and Republican Senator Bill Hagerty, who co-signed the letter to Estevez last month.
Estevez added that it was “necessary” for the Biden administration to prevent China from achieving its goal of matching or surpassing US military might.
Any senator can hold an accelerated confirmation process that requires approval from all 100 senators.
Menendez came out against Estevez when the Senate Banking Committee took his confirmation and later also opposed hastening a final full vote in the Senate.
The New Jersey Democrat’s opposition stems from Estevez’s response to questions about returning oversight of US firearms exports to the State Department. A spokesperson for Menendez told Reuters on Tuesday that the problem was still unresolved.
The Department of Commerce did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Alexandra Alper and Karen Freifeld; editing by Paul Simao)