The Pentagon is likely to back new US restrictions on Huawei Technologies Co (華為), reversing earlier opposition to a proposal meant to further crack down on exports to the blacklisted Chinese company, a person briefed on the matter said on Wednesday.
The reversal would make it harder for US companies to get around the effective ban on exports to Huawei, the second-largest smartphone maker.
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross recently called Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to discuss the issue and a meeting on it is expected next week, the source said.
A higher-level meeting is to take place on Feb. 28, when US officials would discuss further curbing technology exports to China and Huawei.
The US Department of Commerce on Wednesday said that it “continuously reviews and updates export controls to address the challenges of accelerating technology diffusion and innovation.”
The department added that the “scope of the current de minimis threshold for controlled items, as well as the foreign direct product rule, to listed entities are controls under review.”
Politico first reported the Pentagon’s likely reversal earlier, citing people familiar with internal deliberations.
The US Department of Defense did not respond to requests for comment.
US President Donald Trump’s administration added Huawei to an economic blacklist in May last year, citing national security concerns.
In November it was reported that the US might expand its power to stop more foreign shipments of products with US technology to Huawei.
This could allow authorities to regulate sales of nonsensitive items to Huawei, such as standard cellphone chips, made abroad with US-origin technology, software or components.
If US export control rules are revised, trade lawyer Doug Jacobson said that it could lead to some lost sales by US companies.
“But at the end of the day it will not limit Huawei’s ability to manufacture the goods in China that they need to supply their customers,” Jacobson said.
Separately, France yesterday said that Huawei would not be excluded from supplying equipment for 5G networks in the country, but could be subject to restrictions and Paris could prioritize European operators.
“There is no discrimination towards Huawei... No, Huawei will not be excluded from the 5G in France,” French Minister of the Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire told BFM TV.
However, he added: “The French state will take precautions to protect our sovereign interests,” especially close to nuclear and military installations.
Also “it is understandable that we could prioritize a European operator,” such as Nokia Oyj or Ericsson AB, he added.
Additional reporting by AFP
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