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19 June


US Congress may legally return restrictions on Huawei

The bipartisan consensus on the harsh reaction to the behavior of the Chinese government is growing in the US parliament

Trump Photo: Reuters

/NOVOSTIVL/ The United States will allow American companies to sell technology to the blacklisted Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei where there is no threat to US national security, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Tuesday. This article appeared in the South China Morning Post.

Ross’ comment was made as top trade negotiators from the two nations spoke by phone, after an agreement to resume negotiations by presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Osaka in late June.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the phone conversation was "constructive". He said the two sides were talking about a face-to-face meeting, but warned that negotiations would be tough.

"President Xi is expected - we hope in return for our accommodations - to move immediately, quickly, while the talks are going on, on the agriculture purchases," Kudlow said on Tuesday at an event hosted by CNBC.

A brief statement by the Chinese commerce ministry said Vice-Premier Liu He and Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan spoke to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to "exchange views on the consensus reached by their leaders in Osaka".

Ahead of the phone conversation, Chinese state media had cautioned that China would not buy more American products - which Trump said China had committed to following his meeting with Xi in Osaka - if the US "flip-flopped" on its promises. Observers said the restriction on Huawei would be a contentious issue.

"To implement the president’s G20 summit directive two weeks ago, Commerce will issue licences for sales to Huawei where there is no threat to US national security," Ross said on Tuesday at a conference hosted by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the Commerce Department arm that oversees export control.

Speaking elsewhere on Tuesday, former US Secretary of Defence Ash Carter said restrictions on Huawei and US companies doing business with it were necessary, but called on the US to extend its sights beyond the Chinese company in the race for technological dominance.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who had said that relaxing restrictions on Huawei after the G20 summit did not amount to a "general amnesty", confirmed in a recent interview with Bloomberg that Trump considered the company to be "part of the general talks regarding trade".

Any further concessions to Beijing on Huawei are certain to be met with broad opposition in Congress, where there is growing bipartisan consensus for a tough response to behaviour by the Chinese government or companies deemed a threat to US national security.

Following the president’s announcement in June that US companies could continue to sell to Huawei, Senator Marco Rubio said that Congress could act to commit the Trump administration to re-tightening restrictions.

"If President Trump has in fact bargained away the recent restrictions on Huawei, then we will have to get those restrictions put back in place through legislation," the Florida Republican tweeted.