WASHINGTON—The Trump administration on Nov. 18 issued a new 90-day extension allowing U.S. companies to continue doing business with China’s Huawei Technologies as U.S. regulators continue crafting rules on telecommunications firms that pose national security risks.
After adding Huawei to an economic blacklist in May, citing national security concerns, the U.S. Commerce Department has allowed it to purchase some American-made goods in a move aimed at minimizing disruption for its customers, many of which operate networks in rural America.
Reuters reported Friday that an initial extension of around two weeks was expected and a longer extension was in the works, but had not yet been finalized due to regulatory hurdles. Over the weekend, the Trump administration’s plans changed and it now plans to renew the temporary extension for the same 90-day period as it did in August.
“The Temporary General License extension will allow carriers to continue to service customers in some of the most remote areas of the United States who would otherwise be left in the dark,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a statement. “The Department will continue to rigorously monitor sensitive technology exports to ensure that our innovations are not harnessed by those who would threaten our national security.”
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business Network on Friday that some rural carriers need the temporary licenses and are dependent on Huawei for 3G and 4G networks.
“There are enough problems with telephone service in the rural communities—we don’t want to knock them out. So, one of the main purposes of the temporary general licenses is to let those rural guys continue to operate,” Ross said.
The development comes amid discussions between the United States and China aimed at coming to an initial agreement to resolve a trade war that has lasted for over a year.
In blacklisting Huawei, the U.S. government said it had a “reasonable basis to conclude that Huawei is engaged in activities that are contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.”
Last week, Attorney General William Barr said Huawei and ZTE Corp “cannot be trusted,” as he backed a proposal to bar U.S. rural wireless carriers from tapping an $8.5 billion government fund to purchase equipment or services from them.
In May, President Donald Trump also signed an executive order declaring a national emergency and barring U.S. companies from using telecommunications equipment made by companies posing a national security risk. The Commerce Department was directed to draw up an enforcement plan by mid-October but has yet to publish one.
The Commerce Department is also considering whether to grant individual licenses for U.S. firms to sell components to Huawei after receiving more than 200 requests. No action on those are expected on Monday.
By David Shepardson