One of the President Donald Trump's choicest adversaries during his term has been China. He considers the country to be a trade scofflaw while politicians in intelligence circles have pegged it as a digital security threat. Huawei has been targeted to be the biggest casualty from multiple sanctions that have blocked it from acquiring American goods and services. Now, as the current administration makes way for another, we're learning of one of its final moves symbolizing a door slam.
An email sent by the Semiconductor Industry Association on Friday and seen by Reuters indicates that the Commerce Department will not grant special licenses to trade with Huawei to "a significant number of" applicants and will be revoking multiple current licenses. The association was looking for member organizations who may have received a notice to reply.
Huawei was first penalized by the Commerce Department in 2019 after it was found that the telecom firm circumvented sanctions against Iran to conduct business in the country. It was placed onto the Entity List which, among other effects, banned the company from accessing U.S. imports — that includes a lot of semiconductor components as well as, depending on your legal point of view, Android OS. However, it was granted a series of six temporary licenses lasting a total of 18 months ending last August to allow it to ease over into a new supply chain structure.
U.S. companies were also allowed to apply for trade licenses with Huawei. From the start, vendors complained that the Commerce Department was slow to issue decisions, but Secretary Wilbur Ross promised that licenses would come along. A Reuters source said that some 150 licenses representing $120 billion of trade has been held up until now as agencies could not agree on what to grant.
Neither the Semiconductor Industry Association nor the Commerce Department have commented on the email.
Trump's Commerce Department has been making other last-minute tilts against Chinese tech companies including smartphone maker Xiaomi and drone maker DJI. Both companies are now blocked from U.S. imports and investments.