Technology companies press Trump as Huawei deadline nears

Technology companies press Trump as Huawei deadline nears
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A meeting on Monday with President TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' MORE failed to ease tech companies’ concerns over the administration’s stance on Huawei as a deadline to halt U.S. sales to the Chinese telecommunications giant quickly approaches.

The administration has sent conflicting signals about whether it will allow American companies to keep their business ties with Huawei, despite national security concerns about the company and a trade war with China.

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Trump told tech executives he would move quickly on whether to allow sales to Huawei, but he provided few details. And while tech companies praised the president for hearing their concerns, anxiety is growing that the administration is moving too slow.

The administration’s plan to blacklist the company takes effect on Aug. 19, and companies will need to ramp up plans to alter supply chains and cut off sales with Huawei if officials do not reverse course.

At the White House, Trump met with the CEOs of tech companies Micron, Qualcomm, Google, Intel, Broadcom, Cisco and the Western Digital Corporation, along with top administration officials

In a statement after the meeting, a spokesperson for the White House said that Trump and the executives “had a constructive discussion on a range of economic issues,” including fifth-generation (5G) connectivity. Huawei has been actively engaged in the rollout of 5G technology, sparking security concerns.

“The CEOs expressed strong support of the President’s policies, including national security restrictions on United States telecom equipment purchases and sales to Huawei,” the White House spokesperson said. “They requested timely licensing decisions from the Department of Commerce, and the President agreed. The group was also optimistic about United States 5G innovation and deployments.”

But some of the companies seemed lukewarm about the situation following the meeting, expressing appreciation for the meeting but making it clear there were no clear answers.

A spokesperson for Intel told The Hill that “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.”

A spokesperson for Micron told The Hill that Micron President and CEO Sanjay Mehrotra “appreciated the opportunity” to speak with Trump on technology development topics. But the spokesperson added that the company “believes strategic technology investment and policies that ensure open and fair trade on a level playing field are essential to ongoing U.S. technology leadership as well as economic growth throughout the world.”

Representatives for the other companies involved in the meeting did not respond to a request for comment on the meeting. 

For the administration and tech companies, the clock is ticking down on Huawei. On Aug. 19, the Commerce Department will formally add the company to its “entity list,” a move first announced in May. U.S. companies are banned from doing business with companies on that list.

Huawei is one of the largest telecommunications equipment providers in the world, making it challenging for companies to cut ties and find other suppliers or partners.

The administration has added to those challenges by sending confusing messages. Trump has at times suggested that Huawei could be a bargaining chip in broader trade negotiations with China.

After initially announcing the ban, the administration offered a waiver for companies that delayed it taking effect. Reports in May said Google had already begun to halt some business with Huawei.

And in June during the Group of 20 summit in Japan, Trump appeared to undercut the impending ban, when he announced that he would allow U.S. companies to sell equipment to Huawei. Trump noted that “we’re talking about equipment where there’s no great national security problem with it.” 

This announcement prompted a wave of bipartisan pushback on Capitol Hill, complicating tech companies’ efforts to preserve their business dealings. Lawmakers in both the House and the Senate last week offered legislation that would prevent the administration from removing Huawei from the entity list. 

And Sens. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerLawmakers sound alarm on China's disinformation campaign in Hong Kong Facebook users in lawsuit say company failed to warn them of known risks before 2018 breach New intel chief inherits host of challenges MORE (D-Va.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP group calls on Republican senators to stand up to McConnell on election security in new ads What the gun safety debate says about Washington Trump moves forward with F-16 sale to Taiwan opposed by China MORE (R-Fla.) sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard Pompeo'China will not sit idly by' if US sells fighters to Taiwan, official says The Hill's Morning Report - Trump touts new immigration policy, backtracks on tax cuts Iceland's prime minister will not be in town for Pence's visit MORE and to U.S. Trade Representative Robert LighthizerRobert (Bob) Emmet LighthizerOn The Money: Economy adds 164K jobs in July | Trump signs two-year budget deal, but border showdown looms | US, EU strike deal on beef exports Chinese, US negotiators fine-tuning details of trade agreement: report The Trump economy keeps roaring ahead MORE warning them not to allow Huawei to be used as a bargaining chip in the ongoing U.S.-China trade negotiations.

The company was added to the list due to national security concerns, with lawmakers and top administration officials citing concerns that the company was under the control of the Chinese government.

These concerns largely stem from the China’s National Intelligence Law that came into effect in 2017, which states that “any organization or citizen shall support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work in accordance with the law, and keep the secrets of the national intelligence work known to the public.”

The concerns around Huawei were magnified on Monday ahead of the meeting when The Washington Post reported that Huawei has been helping North Korea build and maintain its wireless network, raising questions around whether the company had violated U.S. export controls involving North Korea. 

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Nate Snyder, a senior adviser at Cambridge Global Advisors and a former Obama-appointed counterintelligence official, told The Hill that the companies faced a tough choice.

Snyder said national security concerns would be hard to ignore.

“I know the companies have profits in mind and they are looking at the short term on this,” Snyder said. “But from the national security standpoint, this is something that I don’t think any of them are taking into consideration.”

And he expressed disappointment that the meeting was focused on losing business with Huawei instead of larger questions about how to compete with the company. He said there should be more talk of creating “a solution that will rival Huawei” and making sure the company does not get a dominant foothold in the global 5G market.

“I am really concerned about the companies being concerned about winning this battle when we need to win the war,” Snyder said.