The US on Monday confirmed a Reuters report that it would amend its prohibitions on US companies doing business with Huawei Technologies Co (華為) to allow them to work together on setting standards for next-generation 5G networks.
The US Department of Commerce and other agencies signed off on the rule change, which is awaiting publication in the Federal Register, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
The rule was sent to the Federal Register on Friday and is set to be published as early as Tuesday.
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross confirmed the action in a statement to reporters.
“The United States will not cede leadership in global innovation,” Ross said. “The department is committed to protecting US national security and foreign policy interests by encouraging US industry to fully engage and advocate for US technologies to become international standards.”
The department publicly announced the move later on Monday.
US participation in standards-setting “influences the future of 5G, autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence [AI] and other cutting-edge technologies,” it said.
Last year, the US placed Huawei on the department’s so-called entity list, which restricted sales of US goods and technology to the company, citing national security.
Industry and government officials said the rule change should not be viewed as a sign of weakening US resolve against Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker.
They said the Huawei entity listing put the US at a disadvantage in standards settings, where companies develop specifications to allow equipment from different companies to function together.
With US companies uncertain what technology or information they were allowed to share, engineers from some US firms reduced their participation, giving Huawei a stronger voice.
The new rule came in response to concerns from US companies and lawmakers, a person briefed on the matter said.
“Confusion stemming from the May 2019 entity list update had inadvertently sidelined US companies from some technical standards conversations, putting them at a strategic disadvantage,” said Naomi Wilson, senior director of policy for Asia at the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents companies including Amazon.com Inc, Qualcomm Inc and Intel Corp.
“This much-needed clarification will allow companies to once again compete and lead in these foundational activities that help enable the rollout of advanced technologies, such as 5G and AI, across markets,” she said. “We look forward to reviewing the rule once posted and working with the administration on implementation.”
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