US Commerce eases Huawei trade restrictions with mixed messages

Huawei's newest fate inside US borders was mentioned in a set of remarks delivered this week by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross. This set of remarks was made at the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) Annual Conference on Export Controls and Security, Tuesday, July 9, 2019. In these remarks, it's made clear that Huawei's spot on the Entity List will remain written due to national security – but the reality of the situation is much simpler, it would seem. It's about that cash – that income.

Ross noted that Huawei was added to the Entity List here in the United States on May 16 of this year, and that on the 20th, BIS "issued a 90-day General License allowing customers time to arrange new suppliers, and for Commerce to determine the appropriate long-term measures for American and foreign telecom providers currently relying on Huawei for critical services."

So in essence, they're saying something akin to: you're banned... except in the places where we say it's very important that you continue to do work so our telecom services can function. Fast forward to July 10th, today, and its just 51 days since Huawei's first appearance on the Entity List.

According to Ross, this move from BIS came in reaction to Trump's recent "directive" at the G-20 summit on June 29th. You'd be forgiven if you saw or heard Trump's various comments on Huawei at the G-20 conference and didn't come away with the notion that he'd made any sort of Directive announcement.

The thing to any such announcement was a comment from Trump in which he said that "people are surprised" that American companies sell products to Huawei for "the various things that they make." Trump went on to suggest, "I said that's okay, that we will keep selling that product."

Trump also said that "I've agreed to allow them to continue to sell that product." The product, he said, was "very complex, by the way, and highly scientific."

Ross suggested that "Commerce will issue licenses where there is no threat to U.S. national security." He went on to make a sort of surprisingly frank comment, that "Within those confines we will try to make sure that we don't just transfer revenue from the U.S. to foreign firms."

This comment was included in the same speech given by Ross that also included the following: "The future prosperity of the United States depends on our strategic advantage in advanced technologies. We cannot allow our most precious resource β€” our intellectual property β€”to be stolen, copied, or traded away for short-term gain."