Apparently detoothing a U.S. Commerce Department ban, President Donald Trump said on Saturday that American companies can do business with China’s Huawei.
“I did agree to allow our companies — you know, jobs, I like our companies selling things to other people,” Trump told the press during this weekend’s G20 summit in Osaka, Japan, according to Business Insider. “So I allowed that to happen. Very complex things. Not easy — this is not things that are easy to make.”
“Very few companies are able to do it, but [sic] a tremendous amount of money,” he continued. “Our companies were very upset. These companies are great companies you know all of them. But they weren’t exactly happy with it. But we’re allowing that, because that wasn’t national security…We’re allowing them to sell.”
Trump nevertheless downplayed the possiblity of formally removing Huawei from the Commerce Department’s “entity list,” which bars U.S. companies from doing business with certain foreign firms without special permission.
“I don’t want to talk about it now, we’re looking at that very carefully,” he said. “Huawei is very much in play in terms of our country and in terms of intelligence and the intelligence community — we know a lot about Huawei — but I don’t want to mention that right now. I just think it’s inappropriate. We’re not making it other than what I told you…We’re going to save that for later.”
In May Huawei was hit by twin bans, blocking U.S. firms from using Huawei equipment and preventing Huawei from acquiring American technology. That posed an immediate threat to its livelihood, since the company relies on American suppliers like Google, Qualcomm, and Western Digital. It has been scrambling to find alternatives, and could potentially take a $30 billion revenue hit.
Firms can win exemptions to the Commerce entity list however, and Trump’s statements suggest that he’s allowing this for economic reasons. His administration has previously labeled Huawei a security risk given ties to the Chinese government and the potential for a backdoor into telecoms infrastructure.
The matter has become a flashpoint in the ongoing U.S.-China trade war. On Friday, the two sides agreed to a truce and new negotiations.