(Bloomberg) -- Two nominees for key trade-policy positions in the U.S. Commerce Department pledged to use their roles to prevent the transfer of sensitive technologies to China and adversarial nations, if appointed. 

“I wouldn’t hesitate to impose unilateral controls, if necessary, to keep the United States’s technology out of hands of human-rights abusers,” Thea Kendler, nominated by President Joe Biden to be assistant secretary of commerce for export administration, said at a nomination hearing before the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday. Kendler is a prosecutor and worked on the case against Huawei Technologies Co. executive Meng Wanzhou, who was detained in Canada in 2018 and the U.S. wants extradited. 

Relations between the U.S. and China have remained tense, with a phone call earlier this month between Biden and President Xi Jinping failing to produce a breakthrough on disputes regarding climate change, tariffs and exports of high-tech goods. The world’s two biggest economies also vie with each on issues ranging from the production of semiconductors to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea to human-rights abuses in Xinjiang province.

Alan Estevez, Biden’s pick as undersecretary to lead the Bureau of Industry and Security that oversees export controls, said he would work to stem “malign behavior on a number of fronts” by China and other adversarial nations, strengthening controls over critical technologies, and improving the resiliency of the American supply chain, particularly for semiconductors.  

The Trump administration in 2018 used 1960s-era trade legislation that allows tariffs without a vote by Congress to put levies on steel and aluminum imports, citing national-security concerns. The duties have drawn criticism from the European Union, some quarters of U.S. industry and lawmakers.  

The so-called section 232 tariffs “shouldn’t be used willy-nilly,” Estevez said. 

The BIS is in charge of the so-called entity list. U.S. firms are required to obtain government licenses if they want to sell American tech and intellectual property to businesses on the list. 

The Trump administration used export controls, prohibitions and executive orders to block companies including Huawei, chipmaker Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp., ByteDance Ltd.’s TikTok and Tencent Holdings Ltd. from American goods and consumers. 

“I see no reason that Huawei would come off the entity list, unless things change,” Estevez said, echoing a position taken by Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

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