Tencent Hires Former Obama Administration Counsel as Lobbyist While Trump Targets WeChat

Wechat (Source: Reuters)

Tencent has hired a Washington lobbying firm, making its first move in Washington just one day after US President Donald Trump threatened to ban its social media app WeChat, according to Politico. Tencent’s Washington lobbyist, Roberto Gonzalez, was formerly a Treasury Department deputy general counsel during the Obama administration. Gonzalez now is a partner at the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

This is the first time the Chinese tech giant has hired a lobbyist in the US, and it will also be the first time Gonzalez has registered for public lobbying.

SEE ALSO: TikTok Owner ByteDance Threatens to Sue Trump Administration as US Calls for Broader Ban of Chinese Tech

Hiring lobbyists has become a crucial part of the playbook for Chinese companies looking to fend off Trump’s restrictions. TikTok’s parent company, Bytedance, has increased lobbying spending by more than 66% to $500,000 in the wake of the continuing crackdown by the US government. As part of this drive, the TikTok parent hired former Internet Association employee Michael Beckerman earlier this year to run its Washington office, in addition to retaining four outside lobbying firms.

Other Chinese firms including Huawei, ZTE and Hikvision are making lobbying efforts to fend off the Trump administration’s hostile policies towards Chinese owned businesses in the US. 

Earlier this month, President Donald Trump ordered a ban on transactions with Chinese owned apps including TikTok and WeChat, citing national security concerns. ByteDance responded to the executive order by threatening to resort to the American judicial system in order to get “fair treatment.” The company has not yet made a move, although multiple media sources reported it could file the lawsuit as early as August 12.