Commerce Dept. still weighing approach to Huawei, TikTok

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Wednesday that while she intends to aggressively push back against China, reviews are ongoing about how the Biden administration will address Chinese companies Huawei and TikTok. 

“We have to level the playing field, no one can outcompete the American worker if the playing field is level,” Raimondo told reporters during the daily White House press briefing. “The fact is China’s actions are uncompetitive, coercive, underhanded, they have proven they will do whatever it takes, and so I plan to use all the tools in my toolbox as aggressively as possible to protect American workers and businesses from unfair Chinese practices.”

Telecommunications giant Huawei and social media platform TikTok, whose parent company ByteDance is Chinese, became major focuses of the former Trump administration’s efforts to take a stance against China.  

Huawei was placed on the Commerce Department’s “entity list” by the Trump administration, effectively blacklisting the company. Former President Trump also issued an executive order last year requiring ByteDance to sell TikTok or have it banned from use in the United States. 

The effort to ban TikTok stalled out in the last months of the Trump administration following a contentious election, with the deadline for sale of the app passing with no action taken and leaving the Biden administration to set its own rules on the app. 

While Raimondo did not directly commit to how the Commerce Department or the Biden administration will approach either company, she noted that national security advisor Jake Sullivan is currently leading a review of the companies and other China-related topics.

“A lot of people have said, will Huawei stay on the entity list, I have no reason to believe that they won’t, but we are in the middle of an overall review of China policy,” Raimondo said. “We are in the thick of it right now, we are working as aggressively as we can, we’re not wasting time on it.”

Raimondo dodged a question on whether President Biden will force ByteDance to sell TikTok, noting instead that “what we do on offense is more important than what we do on defense.”

The White House did not have an immediate response to The Hill’s request for comment on the ongoing China review. Both TikTok and Huawei have repeatedly strongly denied posing a national security threat. 

Raimondo’s nomination was held up for several weeks over what many Republicans saw as her unclear stance on Huawei, which is one of the largest 5G equipment manufacturers in the world. 

During her Senate confirmation hearing, Raimondo said she would review Huawei’s place on the entity list, but did not specifically commit to keeping the company there. 

Biden in February called for creating “rules of the road” on cybersecurity as part of efforts to push back against China and Russia. He also called for Chinese companies to be more transparent in the wake of concerns around links of Chinese tech groups to the government. 

“U.S. and European companies are required to publicly disclose corporate governance structures, and abide by rules to deter corruption and monopolistic practices,” Biden said as part of remarks at the virtual Munich Security Conference. “Chinese companies must be held to the same standards.”

Tags China Chinese tech Commerce Department Donald Trump Gina Raimondo Huawei Jake Sullivan Joe Biden tiktok
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