Reversal could put more pressure on the app
Last summer, former President Trump cast TikTok as the mascot for America’s growing concerns over China, when he signed a series of executive orders to remove the popular short video platform from the App Store. This set off a wave of lawsuits to prevent the orders from taking effect, but left the door open for future administrations to take more serious action.
That’s what President Joe Biden did on Wednesday when he signed his order to repeal these Trump-era sanctions and begin the process of setting new rules for software linked to the Chinese government. Biden’s order created a new framework for identifying the real national security risks posed by these apps – in contrast to the chaos created by Trump’s personal sanctions.
what does this mean
In the last few days, the Biden administration has intensified action against China. The White House has been sensitive about appearing softer on China’s policy than Trump, and the crackdown against the US adversary has seen widespread bipartisan support.
But in some ways, the Biden order could pose a more significant threat to TikTok and other apps that have alleged ties to the Chinese government. Unlike Trump’s sweeping sanctions, the Biden order creates a system for evaluating several foreign-owned apps and recommending more thorough action. Trump-era sanctions have not been halted by ongoing court challenges, but this new process could provide new evidence to make it easier for future sanctions to take effect.
“This White House is trying to come up with a clever solution that they believe is more defendable in court,” said Jason Waite, leader of the Alston & Birds International Trade and Regulatory Group. “It still allows them to take action, the final action if they want to.”
The Biden order does not address the ongoing actions or investigations into the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS. Trump’s sanctions sparked a battle last year between big tech companies like Microsoft and Oracle in a bid to take Bydance’s (owner of TikTok) stake in the company and keep the app live in the US. A new system at the Commerce Department could encourage CFIUS and Bytedance to swiftly reach a divestiture agreement before the government comes to its conclusion.
“The [Trump] tiktok and wechat order Acted as leverage to get them to complete the CFIUS review,” said Waite. “In some ways, it maintains that leverage and you could argue that it preserves or restores it because other orders were running into trouble in the courts.”
All eyes will be on the Commerce Department in the coming months – but Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has largely refrained from commenting on what she can do about TikTok. In April, Raimondo said she would take aggressive action against china But did not directly address specific companies like TikTok and WeChat.