Huawei says its relationship with the U.S. is basically the same as it was a couple of months ago, despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to ease restrictions that currently bar American companies from doing business with the Chinese tech giant.
“So far we haven’t seen any tangible change,” Huawei chairman Liang Hua said at a news conference in Shenzhen, China today that was supposed to be about environmental sustainability. The Huawei exec said that U.S. treatment of the company was “unfair.”
Huawei was placed on the U.S. Commerce Department’s so-called Entity List back in May which prohibits American tech suppliers from shipping electronic components to the company, but President Donald Trump signalled last month that he would relax restrictions on the global tech company that have been put in place over national security concerns.
“We’re not saying that just because things have relaxed a little, we’re fine with being on the blacklist,” Liang said, according to an English translation by the Associated Press. “Actually, we believe our listing on the blacklist should be lifted completely.”
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross delivered a speech in Washington D.C. on Tuesday that sought to clarify the Trump regime’s position: Huawei would remain on the Entity List, and the U.S. would simply streamline efforts to make any exemptions for U.S. companies that apply for one. Ross’s statements didn’t seem to clarify much at all.
“To implement the president’s G20 summit directive two weeks ago, [the Department of] Commerce will issue licenses where there is no threat to U.S. national security,” Ross said on Tuesday. Frustratingly, Ross never defined what constitutes a threat to U.S. national security, leaving many people even more confused.
And as if that wasn’t bewildering enough, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said this week that the removal of some restrictions was only temporary.
“We are opening that up for a limited time period,” Kudlow said at an event hosted by cable news network CNBC, where the White House advisor used to work. “So that’s important and, I guess, does provide some relief to Huawei.”
China has created its own “Unreliable Entity” list of supposedly dangerous foreign companies, but hasn’t released information about what U.S. corporations may be on it just yet. One of the biggest questions that remains is what happens to Huawei’s use of the Google’s Android operating system in the wake of the U.S.-China trade war. The initial interpretation by the American tech community was that Google would have to immediately stop providing technical support to Huawei for the official version of its Android operating system, but the U.S. government backpedalled and said Google had 90 days to transition before ties must be severed. Now no one really knows what’s going to happen but, in the meantime, Huawei is working on its own operating system, which it claims will be 60 per cent faster.
Huawei recently cancelled the launch of its latest MateBook laptop, citing the U.S. trade restrictions. And while laptops are just a small part of Huawei’s revenue stream, there are signs that its business could be harmed substantially in coming years. Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei recently said that Huawei’s overseas phone sales, for example, could decline 40 percent in the next two years, costing the company as much as $30 billion.
Despite President Trump’s claims, nothing was really going to change too drastically for Huawei, despite what he said at the G20 summit in Japan last month, since the president often says whatever he’s thinking without consulting experts or his own advisors. Huawei is clearly frustrated with the cloud of inconsistency that’s constantly wafting from the White House.
To that, we say join the club, Huawei. The American people are just as confused as you are on any given day, as anyone who watched yesterday’s White House social media summit can tell you. As American academic and tech expert Nicholas Negroponte recently said, “clearly [the Huawei ban is] not about national security. We don’t trade national security.” But maybe we do. The answer to that question seems to change by the hour and the whims of the president.
At least President Trump hasn’t ordered airstrikes on Huawei facilities only to pull them back at the last minute to show what a great guy he is, like he did recently in Iran. Well, he hasn’t done that yet anyway. In the Trump era no one knows what to expect from any hour to the next.