White House official seeks Huawei delay

11 Jun 19

A senior White House official is seeking to delay restrictions on Chinese technology giant Huawei as they could prevent companies being able to supply the US government. 

Acting budget chief Russell Vought made the request in a letter to vice president Mike Pence and members of Congress, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Vought said undelayed implementation of the restrictions imposed under the NDAA defence law passed last year would lead to a “dramatic reduction” in the number of companies that are able to supply the US government, and that they need time to adjust. 

In May, President Donald Trump added to pressure on the Chinese company by issuing an executive order banning US entities from using information and communications technology from firms considered to be a national security threat.

The move was seen as targeted at Huawei which the Commerce Department then, in a separate move, placed on a blacklist prohibiting US companies from doing business with the Chinese tech giant without government approval.

Trump’s actions are seen as both an effort to place pressure on China in the escalating trade war between the two countries while a response to Pentagon concerns about the potential for spying by Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecoms network gear.

According to The Wall Street Journal, which obtained a copy of Vought’s letter sent last week, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget is seeking a delay of up to two years on restrictions against some Huawei sales.

“This is about ensuring that companies who do business with the US government or receive federal grants and loans have time to extricate themselves from doing business with Huawei and other Chinese tech companies listed in the NDAA,” Jacob Wood, a spokesman for the White House OMB, said in a statement.

At a meeting of the G20’s finance ministers in Fukuoka, Japan, the US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin hinted at the weekend that Trump might ease restrictions on Huawei if there is progress in the trade dispute with China.

Huawei, a leading provider of next-generation 5G technology, has denied accusations by Washington that it has been involved in espionage and stealing intellectual property, and has filed a lawsuit against the US government over restrictions in its defence policy.

Washington has also put pressure on the UK government not to allow Huawei a role in building Britain’s 5G networks.

  • Gavin O'Toole

    A freelance journalist. He has written six books about Latin America and taught the politics of the region at Queen Mary, University of London.

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