Tech executives push Trump on Huawei sales

Alan Rappeport and Kate Conger, The New York Times

Posted at Jul 23 2019 10:54 AM

A Huawei company logo is pictured at the Shenzhen International Airport in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China July 22, 2019. Aly Song, Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday assured executives of several big technology companies that his administration would make “timely” decisions about whether to allow American firms to continue selling products to Huawei, the Chinese telecom equipment giant that has been placed on a government blacklist, the White House said in a statement.

Trump met Monday afternoon with the leaders of Google, Qualcomm, Cisco, Intel, Micron, Western Digital and Broadcom to discuss the administration’s ban on Huawei, as well as the economy and trade relations with China, the White House said.

The meeting comes as tech companies, including semiconductor firms, continue to push the administration to follow through with Trump’s promise to ease restrictions on selling chips and other technology to Huawei. The industry has been lobbying the administration to allow a resumption of sales to Huawei after a ban on the sale of US technology that was imposed this year over national security concerns.

That ban prevented many big tech companies, like Google, from doing business with Huawei without getting a government waiver. As a result, Google cut off support to Huawei for many Android hardware and software services, and other companies also stepped back from doing business with the firm.

Trump, in an effort to restart trade talks with Beijing, said in June that he would allow some sales to Huawei to continue. That decision, which surprised many within the administration, came after a meeting with President Xi Jinping of China in June at the Group of 20 summit. The move was viewed as a significant concession by the Trump administration, which has warned that Huawei’s gear poses national security risks and has tried to persuade allies to not to use the telecom firm’s equipment in their buildout of the next generation of wireless networks, known as 5G.

In a statement Monday afternoon, the White House said that chief executives from the companies “requested timely licensing decisions from the Department of Commerce, and the president agreed.”

Trump was joined at the meeting by Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council; Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary; and Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary; and Robert Lighthizer, the administration’s top trade negotiator.

“Besides the request to move the applications along, they really spent some time just helping us figure out how to do 5G better and faster,” Kudlow said Monday evening.

The Commerce Department’s move in May to block sales to Huawei, by adding the company to its so-called entity list, prompted confusion within Huawei and among its many American suppliers.

Trump added to that confusion last month when, after the meeting with Xi, he said that “US companies can sell their equipment to Huawei” because China agreed to buy large amounts of agricultural product from the United States.

Administration officials have said repeatedly that no licenses will be granted for products that could jeopardize national security. In practice, that will mean the only granted licenses are likely to be for items, such as older semiconductor technologies, that are freely available on global markets — which Huawei could buy in places like Europe.

“Commerce will issue licenses where there is no threat to US national security,” Ross said this month at a conference. “Within those confines, we will try to make sure that we don’t just transfer revenue from the US to foreign firms.”

A Commerce Department spokesman declined to say whether any companies have had applications approved to sell general merchandise.

Tech companies said little about the outcome but expressed gratitude for the meeting.

“We believe strategic technology investment and policies that ensure open and fair trade on a level playing field are essential to ongoing US technology leadership, as well as economic growth throughout the world,” Micron said in a statement.

Intel said that it was grateful for the opportunity to have its concerns heard.

“We regularly engage with the administration on issues important to Intel and our industry,” the company said in a statement. “We appreciate joining our peers attending today’s White House economic meeting and sharing Intel’s perspective on economic issues, including how the current trade situation with China impacts the critical US semiconductor industry.”


2019 New York Times News Service