Tech gets brief reprieve from Trump's Huawei ban

Tech gets brief reprieve from Trump's Huawei ban
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The Trump administration’s decision to delay an order to blacklist products from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei by 90 days is giving American tech companies a brief reprieve from a decision that threatened to rattle the industry.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur RossWilbur Louis RossHillicon Valley: Court delays ruling against Qualcomm | Google asks employees not to talk politics at work | Facebook releases early emails discussing Cambridge Analytica | Bannon to release anti-Huawei film Bannon to release anti-Huawei film 'Claws of the Red Dragon' Trump administration announces deal to avert tariffs on Mexican tomatoes MORE said in a statement late Monday that the temporary license “grants operators time to make other arrangements and the Department space to determine the appropriate long-term measures for Americans and foreign telecommunications providers that currently rely on Huawei equipment for critical services.”

Ross also noted that the license will “allow operations to continue for existing Huawei mobile phone users and rural broadband networks.”

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The move followed an order from President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavid Axelrod after Ginsburg cancer treatment: Supreme Court vacancy could 'tear this country apart' EU says it will 'respond in kind' if US slaps tariffs on France Ginsburg again leaves Supreme Court with an uncertain future MORE last week that would have banned American companies from dealing with Huawei, citing national security reasons. Huawei has long faced scrutiny from the U.S. intelligence community over its ties to the Chinese government.

But that decision posed tough challenges for U.S. companies, many of which rely on Huawei for important components. Any effort to cut out the Chinese company threatened to shake up supply chains and prices. And Huawei could be just the beginning as the administration takes a closer look at other Chinese telecom companies, such as ZTE.

Google was among the companies that began taking steps to instantly end its business with the company after last week’s order. For Google and other companies, however, the administration’s waiver gives them more time to deal with the potential ramifications.

The spokesperson told The Hill on Tuesday the temporary license form the Commerce Department allows for “limited engagement” for 90 days and means Google can “continue providing software updates and security patches to existing models.”

The Trump administration’s shifting stance on Huawei also comes as it carries out high-stakes negotiations with China on a new trade deal. That’s led to worries that White House officials are using the fight with Huawei as a bargaining chip in the broader talks.

That uncertainty is only compounding the tech industry’s worries as it braces for a full ban taking effect.

Rural networks in particular stand to be hit hard by the blacklisting of Huawei, with the Rural Wireless Association (RWA) estimating in a filing to the Federal Communications Commission last year that were Huawei and Chinese telecom group ZTE to be banned, up to 25 percent of the RWA’s carrier members would be impacted. Chinese providers have been important in providing the components needed to build up rural networks.

The temporary order also allows mobile phone groups time to adjust to the ban.

Android, a mobile operating software owned by Google, tweeted Tuesday that “for Huawei users’ questions regarding our steps to comply w/ the recent US government actions: We assure you while we are complying with all US gov’t requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device.”

A spokesperson for tech company Xilinx told The Hill that the company is “in compliance with the rule and [will] continue to monitor this situation.”

A spokesperson for Intel, another major tech giant that has dealings with Huawei, declined to comment for this story.

The issuance of the Commerce Department temporary license for Huawei came after Trump signed an executive order last week banning foreign telecommunications companies deemed national security threats from doing business in the United States.

On the same day Trump signed the executive order, the Commerce Department added Huawei to its list of blacklisted trade groups. The temporary license allows for U.S. companies to interact with Huawei through Aug. 18.

Huawei has pushed back against the executive order at various times in the last week, with a company spokesperson telling The Hill shortly after the order was signed that Huawei is “ready and willing to engage with the US government and come up with effective measures to ensure product security.”

The spokesperson added that “restricting Huawei from doing business in the US will not make the US more secure or stronger; instead, this will only serve to limit the US to inferior yet more expensive alternatives, leaving the US lagging behind in 5G deployment, and eventually harming the interests of US companies and consumers.”

“In addition, unreasonable restrictions will infringe upon Huawei’s rights and raise other serious legal issues,” the spokesperson added.

The White House has defended the ban. In a statement released when Trump signed the executive order, the White House said he was doing so to make “clear that this Administration will do what it takes to keep America safe and prosperous, and to protect America from foreign adversaries who are actively and increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology infrastructure and services in the United States.”

The tech industry has said it supports those aims. But keeping up with the administration’s policies could prove to be a challenge.

“Keeping phones up to date and secure is in everyone’s best interests,” a Google spokesperson told The Hill on Tuesday.