Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney has now put forward an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would effectively take Huawei off of the negotiating table in President Donald Trump's bid to bring an end to the U.S. trade war with China.
If successful, the amendment would change the language surrounding how a company is removed from the Entity List. That would make it difficult for the president to use Huawei for leverage — a prospect he has openly considered.
Summarily, Huawei and its senior officers would need to have gone without violating U.S. or U.N. sanctions or stealing U.S. intellectual property for a total of five years to be taken off the list. It would also need to be found by the U.S. Commerce Department that the company isn't a threat to the telecommunications systems or infrastructure in either the U.S. or allied nations.
The amendment follows the lead set by Senators Marco Rubio and Mark Warner, who have urged Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer not to remove Huawei from the list as part of a trade deal. Mr. Romney's spokesperson has reportedly indicated that the senator views Huawei as a threat to national security and believes the prohibitions on its involvement with U.S. companies should stay in place until that's no longer the case.
The ongoing trade war
Huawei has proclaimed itself innocent of any wrongdoing and repeatedly stated that the ban is not only unconstitutional but that it will also harm American companies as much as its own business. That's also shown through in several reports regarding analysts' review of the situations.
The trouble comes down to the fact that the Chinese tech giant representing a large portion of business for companies in the country. As the world's second largest smartphone manufacturer and a global leader in networking equipment, Huawei makes up a significant portion of the business conducted across the U.S. tech supply chain.
President Trump's ban on the company, in the midst of an ongoing trade war, has largely been cited as stemming from charges of fraud and sanctions violations. Those are currently faced by both the company and its CFO, who is being held in Canada pending extradition.
Regardless, the executive order signed to add the company to the Entity List has widely been regarded as part of the larger trade war — at least as much to do with politics as security. That's a claim Huawei itself has made in its own defense too, amid widespread concern over whether the company does or would act as a puppet for the Chinese government.
Huawei wants no part of this
Whether or not Huawei will be able to prove to anybody's satisfaction that it has not been abusing its position in the telecommunications markets it respectively leads in remains to be seen. The company has faced increasing difficulty in defending itself against allegations due to national security concerns limiting its access to evidence in the above-mentioned cases.
Conversely, company CEO Ren Zhengfei has implied that the entire idea of using Huawei to bargain in the trade war is laughable, in part echoing sentiments from within the U.S.
Mr. Ren stated last month that not only does president Trump not have his number but that he wouldn't answer his call. More recently, the executive has said that he simply doesn't have time to put effort toward taking any part in the trade war at all, as his company ramps up efforts to end dependence on U.S. companies altogether.