Tanya Snyder | Politico

House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith on Wednesday said he’s skeptical about whether national security is really at risk when it comes to Chinese buses and rail cars, saying banning them is a ploy by U.S. manufacturers “to eliminate the competition.”

“I will tell you honestly, I don’t see the concern as being as great as other a lot of other people do,” Smith told reporters, while acknowledging that the provision is “very popular” with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers.

A provision in the fiscal 2020 defense bill would ban transit agencies from procuring rolling stock from companies that are owned or subsidized by the Chinese government. The House bill would ban only rail cars; the Senate version covers buses as well.

Smith dismissed the idea China would be able to control U.S. trains and joked about the Chinese government planting “listening devices in the trains so they can hear people bitching about their boss on their way home from work.”

“I don’t know what they’d do with a bus,” he added.

Smith even appeared skeptical of competitiveness arguments for the provision and sought to debunk a widely-cited 2018 report by defense and national security consulting firm Guardian Six that Chinese manufacturers have “decimated” rail car manufacturing in Australia.

“I had the Australians in the other day and they said, ‘yeah, that’s not true,’” Smith said.

“So I don’t know,” Smith said. “I will say this. [The proposed ban] was primarily organized by competitors of those train and bus companies as one way to eliminate the competition.”

“Now that’s not to say that there’s not a policy argument for doing it, but I’m still searching for the exact argument there,” he went on. “But I will also say it’s got a lot of support. I’ve had a lot of members come up to me, Republican and Democrat, saying, ‘We want this provision.'”

Connor O’Brien contributed to this report.

Source: Politico Pro