Huawei granted three month reprieve from ban

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The US Department of Commerce has issued a licence allowing US companies to keep doing business with Huawei for the next three months. The company now has a Temporary General License to engage with U.S. vendors on a limited basis.

The licence would enable operations to continue for existing Huawei mobile phone users and rural broadband networks in the US, the commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, said in a statement.

“The temporary general licence grants operators time to make other arrangements and the [commerce] department space to determine the appropriate long term measures for Americans and foreign telecommunications providers that currently rely on Huawei equipment for critical services,” Ross said.

Google will be allowed to provide software updates to Huawei for its Android phones while Huawei’s component suppliers will be able to finish deliveries for previously-made orders. It will also give telcos dependent on Huawei products time to potentially find alternative solutions.

Earlier on Monday, Google said it would stop providing Huawei with its Android software in order to comply with the export restrictions imposed by President Trump.

Last week, the Trump administration announced that it was placing Huawei on the commerce department’s export blacklist — known as the entity list. This requires US companies wanting to sell to Huawei to obtain a special licence from the US government under a “presumption of denial”, meaning that Washington’s default position would be that any application would be rejected.

As well as dealing a blow to Huawei in the US and around the world, the move by the Trump administration triggered a sell-off in shares of US technology companies, including chipmakers, who are big suppliers to Huawei.

In a notice in the US government’s federal register on Monday afternoon, the commerce department’s bureau of industry and security said it was authorising “engagement in transactions” with Huawei and its affiliates under certain conditions.

Those included deals “necessary to maintain and support existing and currently fully operational networks and equipment, including software updates and patches” as well as those contracts “necessary to provide service and support, including software updates or patches to existing Huawei handsets”.

In its statement, the US commerce department said that after three months it would evaluate whether to extend the temporary licence any further, but it reiterated the reasons why Huawei had been placed on the export blacklist in the first place.

“The department concluded that the company is engaged in activities that are contrary to US national security or foreign policy interests, including . . . providing prohibited financial services to Iran, and obstruction of justice in connection with the investigation of those alleged violations of US sanctions, among other illicit activities,” 

Although U.S. officials have offered no public evidence of malicious code or so-called back doors in Huawei equipment, they argue that its products can’t be trusted because Beijing could at any time order Chinese companies to do its bidding.