US official says licences to sell to Huawei 'forthcoming very shortly': Report

The US government has received 260 requests for the licences.
Written by Campbell Kwan, Contributor

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Sunday reportedly said licences that permit US companies to sell components to Huawei could be "forthcoming very shortly".

In an interview with Bloomberg, Ross said a US-Huawei deal was on track to be signed this month, noting that the government has received 260 requests for the licences.

"That's a lot of applications -- it's frankly more than we would've thought," Ross said. 

"Remember too, with Entity Lists, there's a presumption of denial. So the safe thing for these companies would be to assume denial, even though we will obviously approve quite a few of them."

There are currently over 100 Chinese entities, including Huawei, that have been added to the US trade blacklist, which has prevented them from purchasing US software and components. 

Huawei was added to the blacklist in May, and last month, the US added 28 more Chinese entities including Hikvision and Dahua Technology, two of the world's largest manufacturers of surveillance technology. The Trump administration had been considering whether to add Hikvision to its Entity List since May, but did not make an official decision until last month. 

The US has currently granted temporary licences to US companies to trade with Huawei where it is for the purpose of "maintain[ing] and support[ing] existing and currently fully operational networks and equipment, including software updates and patches". 

See also: Huawei drops lawsuit against US after having its telco equipment returned  

These temporary licences expire at the end of this month.

"We're in good shape, we're making good progress, and there's no natural reason why it couldn't be," Ross said in the interview about any US-Huawei licence deal.

"But whether it will slip a little bit, who knows. It's always possible."

Ross, who is currently at a regional summit hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), did not provide further information on the upcoming December tariff increases however, stipulating that such a move would be "a pile of paper" if China did not make legislative changes or have an enforcement mechanism in place. 

US companies have argued that the Huawei ban, along with tariffs enforced onto Chinese goods, could affect their ability to compete with foreign companies. Trump in late August said Apple CEO Tim Cook made a good case that US tariffs harm it and help smartphone rival Samsung. Microsoft's top lawyer and president Brad Smith, meanwhile, said the export restrictions could harm the company's artificial intelligence and quantum computing businesses.

Chinese products that are set to be hit with tariffs in December include cell phones, laptop computers, video game consoles, certain toys, computer monitors, and certain items of footwear and clothing.

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