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Donald Trump expresses concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal

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Donald Trump has raised concerns over Oracle’s deal with ByteDance to operate TikTok in the United States, saying he would not be happy if it allowed the Chinese tech group to retain a controlling stake in the new company.

“Conceptually. . . I don’t like it, ”the US president said. “It wasn’t told to me. . . If so, I will not be happy with it.

The Financial Times reported earlier this week that Oracle would enter into a technical partnership with ByteDance, which would become the majority shareholder of a new US-based company.

In August, Mr. Trump threatened to ban TikTok, fearing that the Chinese government could use the short videos app to access the data of U.S. citizens. He gave ByteDance until September 20 to sell the app to a US company or face an operating ban in the US.

The Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States, an intra-agency panel that can block deals for national security reasons, is reviewing the proposal.

Mr Trump said he was not shown details of the deal but would be briefed on the situation on Thursday. “He has to be 100% when it comes to national security,” he said.

Video: Why TikTok and WeChat are the New Front Line in the US-China Tech War Video: Why TikTok and WeChat are the New Front Line in the US-China Tech War

Those involved in the negotiations said they were confident their proposal would allay national security concerns.

Officials supporting the deal include Steven Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, according to two people involved in the talks with the government. They also include Attorney General William Barr and Jared Kushner, son-in-law and adviser to the president.

Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state and a tough hawk of China, did not give his point of view as he had questions about the details of the deal, according to people familiar with the situation.

They added that no government official had expressed any qualms to ByteDance and Oracle about the Chinese company holding a majority stake. They said the talks focused on ensuring foolproof measures to protect the private data of U.S. citizens and ensure that national security is not compromised.

We remain opposed to any agreement that would allow entities based or controlled in China to retain, control or modify the code or algorithms that operate any U.S. version of TikTok.

As part of the deal, TikTok would create a board of directors and a safety committee made up of U.S. nationals who would have to be approved by the U.S. government, said two people with direct knowledge of the plan.

The security committee, which will be headed by someone with the appropriate government security clearances, would oversee matters of data privacy, cybersecurity and national security, the people added.

The Security Committee, which will be Cfius’ point of contact, will regularly submit audits on security issues to the US government. It would also ensure that the restrictions placed on ByteDance on the management of TikTok in the United States are enforced in accordance with the agreement.

Oracle would maintain full oversight of the ByteDance algorithm, which underpins TikTok, said two people with direct knowledge of the matter. Any technical update developed by ByteDance for TikTok would be tested by Oracle to ensure that no backdoors were introduced to spy on US citizens, they added.

The proposal has raised concerns on Capitol Hill. Marco Rubio, a senator from Florida, and five of his Senate Republican colleagues said in a letter to Mr. Mnuchin that Mr. Trump should not approve any deal that allows a Chinese company to retain control of the critical algorithm.

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“We remain opposed to any agreement that would allow entities based or controlled in China to retain, control or modify the code or algorithms that operate any US version of TikTok,” Mr. Rubio wrote.

However, any export of the Bytedance algorithm would require Beijing’s approval, under new regulations that analysts have interpreted as the Chinese government’s red lines for a TikTok deal.

Bytedance said in a statement on Thursday that none of the proposals under discussion involve the sale of their business or technology, adding that any deal would have to be approved by Chinese regulators.

Mr Trump had previously insisted that any deal should include a direct payment to the Treasury, but the FT reported this week that the idea has been scrapped.

The president said on Wednesday he was stunned to learn from lawyers in his administration that there was no legal mechanism for the government to receive such a payment.

“Surprisingly, I find you are not allowed to do this,” Mr. Trump said. “They are ready to make a big payment to the government and we are not allowed to take the money. . . How stupid can we be?

Additional reporting by Yuan Yang in Beijing

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