US President Donald Trump has signalled a lifting, in part, on the trade embargo against Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei - but only on parts, software, and technologies that were already available to the company prior to the ban.
Huawei, which produces telecommunications infrastructure hardware and software, smartphones, tablets, and under its HiSilicon subsidiary system-on-chip (SoC) designs, became the biggest victim of the ongoing trade war between the US and China back in May when US President Donald Trump signed a memo banning US companies from supplying products or technology. With Huawei's business largely dependent on foreign technology - its HiSilicon chips are all based around the Arm architecture which while based in Cambridge and owned by Japanese SoftBank was confirmed to be affected, while its smartphone and tablet products all run Google's Android operating system - the move was a serious blow for the company, and a clear indication that the trade war is heating up.
The company was given a brief stay of execution shortly after the memorandum was signed, however, in the form of a temporary 'general licence' for a period of 90 days. Now, that period has been extended following talks between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Speaking at a press conference in Japan attended by Business Insider, Trump - in his typical near-incoherent speaking style - declared: 'I did agree to allow our companies, you know, jobs, I like our companies selling things to other people. So I allowed that to happen. Very complex things. Not easy, this is not things that are easy to make. Very few companies are able to do it, but a tremendous amount of money. Our companies were very upset. These companies are great companies you know all of them. But they weren't exactly happy with it. But we're allowing that, because that wasn't national security. We're allowing them to sell.'
While it's hard to pick a particularly coherent thread from Trump's speech, his comments suggest that Huawei will be allowed to continue to purchase technology from US companies beyond the terms of the 90-day licence - though he stopped short of telling attendees that the company's place on the trade blacklist would be lifted. 'I don't want to talk about it now, we're looking at that very carefully,' Trump explained in response to continued questions from the assembled press. 'Huawei is very much in play in terms of our country and in terms of intelligence and the intelligence community. We know a lot about Huawei, but I don't want to mention that right now. I just think it's inappropriate. We're not making it other than what I told you. We're going to save that for later.'
Trump's comments were somewhat clarified by National Economic Council chair Larry Kudlow, who explained during a televised interview with Fox News Sunday that 'Commerce will grant some additional licences where there is a general availability [of components or technologies].'
Huawei has not yet commented on Trump's speech.
February 17 2020 | 09:00