National Security

The Trump Regime is Lost in the Woods on Huawei Policy

Written by SK Ashby

What exactly is American policy toward Chinese-owned telecommunications giant Huawei?

Looking for another bargaining chip in his trade war with China, the Trump regime placed Huawei on the Commerce Department's export control "blacklist" in the summer of 2019 which would have prohibited American firms from selling equipment to Huawei if the regime had not also delayed the decision twice and issued waivers to continue doing business.

The Trump regime also spent most of the last year threatening to stop sharing intelligence with our allies if they don't ban Huawei from their next generation of mobile data networks, but our allies have made the decision not to ban Huawei and the Trump regime has backed away from their threats.

So, where does all of that leave us?

It's not clear to me where that leaves us, but it's also not clear to the Trump regime which has scheduled a meeting for later this month to decide what their policy actually is now.

The gathering, currently scheduled for Feb. 28, will bring together high level officials for talks after the U.S. Commerce Department withdrew a rule aimed at further reducing foreign shipments to Huawei Technologies amid pushback from the Defense Department, one of the people said.

The meeting, which is expected to include cabinet-level officials including Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and State Department Secretary Mike Pompeo, is aimed at addressing how best to approach the blacklisted Chinese company and the broader war with China over technological dominance. [...]

“The administration has to decide how to match its rhetoric on China with policies to deny China key technology and industry,” said Tim Morrison, a former senior director at the White House’s National Security Council under President Donald Trump, who favors tougher rules.

I assume that whatever position the White House favors, to the extent that they even have a concrete position, will be the one that wins out during this meeting.

That could mean the Commerce Department will back off or it could mean they'll go further than they have before by taking more unilateral steps against Huawei in international commerce.

If the latter is the result of the regime's upcoming meeting, it could have implications for many other things we discuss here such as the likelihood that exports to China will actually double under "phase one" of Trump's "biggest and greatest deal ever."

I don't think China will just sit by and accept it if the Commerce Department places sanctions on Huawei that threaten the company's ability to do business in other foreign markets, not just inside the United States. They could soften or walk away from pledges they made under "phase one" or they could take retaliatory actions against American-owned firms.

The regime's upcoming meeting to determine what their policy is wouldn't be necessary if they weren't working backwards from the initial decisions to target Huawei without first establishing what the policy would be. Official policy often has to catch up to Trump's exceptionally large mouth.