A bipartisan group of 15 U.S. senators asked President Trump to cease granting export license approvals to companies seeking to conduct business with Chinese telecom Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.
“Given the security risks posed by Huawei’s operations in the U.S., we request that you take immediate action to suspend the approval of such licenses and ensure Congress is appropriately informed about the license approval process and related national security implications going forward,” the senators wrote in a Nov. 21 letter to the president.
Two days ago, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it had started approving some of the estimated 290 export license applications related to Huawei. While most of these license applications are expected to be denied, some companies have received approvals, including reportedly Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT).
The Commerce Department is prohibited by law from announcing which companies receive or are denied export licenses.
Since May, Huawei and 115 overseas affiliates have been added to the Commerce Department’s Entity List, which imposes significant restrictions on U.S. goods and technology exports to the Chinese telecommunications company and requires a U.S. company or organization to obtain an export license from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).
The Commerce Department’s latest license approvals follow the department’s Nov. 18 extension of the temporary general license for a narrow scope of U.S. exports to Huawei and its overseas affiliates on the Entity List.
So-called “authorized transactions” include the continued operation of existing networks and equipment, support to handsets acquired before Huawei’s placement on the Entity List, cybersecurity research and vulnerability disclosure, and “engagement as necessary for development of 5G standards by a duly recognized standards body.”
The senators wrote, “While we disagree with this decision, we are even more concerned that the approval of additional, more permanent licenses will allow Huawei to fully resume its engagement with certain U.S. firms without an adequate assessment of risks to national security.”
The senators added, “Consequently, we believe that the approval of these export licenses would undermine the original intent of the Entity List designation, allowing Huawei to continue to pose a serious threat to U.S. telecommunications infrastructure and national security more broadly.”
The letter was led by Sens. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark. Other senators who signed the letter include Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.; Rick Scott, R-Fla.; Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; John Cornyn, R-Texas; Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.; Josh Hawley, R-Mo.; Edward Markey, D-Mass.; Ben Sasse, R-Neb.; Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Cory Booker, D-N.J.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; and Doug Jones, D-Ala.
The senators urged President Trump not to use Huawei export licenses as leverage for securing the proposed “phase one” trade deal with China, since the company’s placement on the Entity List addresses national security concerns.
“National security experts widely agree that Chinese companies cooperate heavily with the Chinese Communist Party, and the Chinese government is thought to exercise considerable influence over Huawei, in particular,” they said.