US govt clarifies restrictions on Huawei

Image credit: Huawei
The US Commerce Department has signalled it is prepared to grant licences for US firms to do business with Huawei.

The US government has offered more information about how it will loosen restrictions on Chinese tech firm Huawei, after President Trump announced earlier this month a ban on trading with the company would be reassessed.

Mr Trump made the surprise announcement that sanctions on Huawei were to be lifted after discussions with Chinese President Xi at the G8 summit in Japan. But since then, no formal details had emerged from the White House, leaving many confused as to the state of the ban on US firms providing equipment and services to the firm.

However, US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow have now sought to clarify the situation. 

Mr Ross said at an event this week that while Huawei will remain on the Entity List of firms that are prohibited from doing business with US organisations, the likes of Google and Qualcomm will be able to apply for licences that exempt them from this rule. 

Although the official policy is still that requests will be met with the “presumption of denial”, the US government has signalled that as long as there is deemed to be no threat to national security, licences will be granted.

This could mean that Huawei will be able to continue using the full range of Google services, including access to Android security updates, the Play Store and apps such as Maps and YouTube, which were under threat had the initial ban remained in place. It may also be able to resume acquiring essential chipsets from the likes of Qualcomm.

Mr Kudlow has stressed that while the US government has “opened the door [and] relaxed a bit” on issuing licences, this will only be for a limited period. He did not specify how long this would be, so it is suggested Huawei may return to the blacklist if trade deals will China fail to make progress.

The news comes shortly after Huawei offered a first glimpse at its contingency plan should it be unable to use the full Android operating system in future. 

In an interview with French publication Le Point, chief executive Ren Zhengfei said the firm’s new operating system – known as HongMeng OS – would be up to 60 per cent faster than Android and be able to connect across multiple smart devices, ranging from cars to phones.

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