- US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday said that if China backed down in trade talks with the US, the president would consider easing up on Huawei.
- Previously, President Donald Trump’s economic team was at pains to separate the Huawei issue from the trade negotiations.
- Trump, however, had said Huawei could be included in a trade deal even though he considered the firm to pose a national security risk.
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The Trump administration seems to have abandoned any pretense that its war on Huawei is unrelated to the trade talks with China.
Since Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada in December, President Donald Trump’s economic team had been at pains to separate the Chinese tech giant from trade negotiations.
That game plan now seems to have been all but dropped, however, after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin doubled down on interventions from Trump on the Huawei issue.
In an interview with Reuters, Mnuchin dropped a heavy hint that America’s blacklisting of Huawei was a bargaining chip in the trade war with China.
“I think what the president is saying is, if we move forward on trade, that perhaps he’ll be willing to do certain things on Huawei if he gets comfort from China on that and certain guarantees,” Mnuchin said.
He added, however, that there were “national security issues” relating to Huawei. The US government maintains that Huawei poses a threat, contending that it can be used as a proxy by the Chinese government to spy. Huawei denies that.
Mnuchin’s comments follow suggestions by Trump that Huawei could form part of a trade deal, even though the US does not trust the company.
“Huawei is something that’s very dangerous – you look at what they have done from a security standpoint, from a military standpoint, it’s very dangerous,” Trump said in May immediately before suggesting “it’s possible that Huawei even would be included in some kind of a trade deal.”
“If we made a deal,” Trump said, “I could imagine Huawei being possibly included in some form of, or some part of a trade deal.”
Since the arrest of Meng, the US has turned the screw on Huawei.
The Department of Commerce blacklisted the firm last month, placing it on an “entity list” requiring American companies to seek government permission before doing business with Huawei. The company was then given a 90-day grace period to help the transition.
Several major US companies quickly distanced themselves from Huawei, including Google, Intel, and Qualcomm. Google is reportedly lobbying Capitol Hill to exempt itself from the ban.