The Trump administration announced Wednesday that it has begun issuing licenses allowing some companies to restart a “limited” range of U.S. tech sales to China’s Huawei, months after adding the telecom company to a trade blacklist.

The licenses, which will benefit both U.S. tech companies and Huawei, come as the United States struggles to secure a wider trade deal with China.

Some companies began receiving the licenses Wednesday morning from the Commerce Department, according to people familiar with the matter. The Commerce Department said it notified other companies that it intends to deny their license applications. Those companies will have 20 days to appeal before the denial is official.

In an emailed statement, the Commerce Department said it was authorizing only “limited and specific activities which do not pose a significant risk to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

Semiconductor companies, which manufacture the silicon chips that are critical to electronic devices, are among the license recipients, according to the Semiconductor Industry Association. But the names of those companies were not made public.The Commerce Department said the granting of some licenses did not change Huawei’s inclusion on the department’s so-called Entity List of companies considered national security risks, and that the granting of some licenses did not change a temporary 90-day reprieve that the Commerce Department issued this week intended primarily to benefit rural telecoms dependent on Huawei equipment.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the license approvals indicated any change in the Trump administration’s wider trade negotiations with China. The United States blacklisted Huawei in May after calling it a security threat, saying the Chinese government could tap into Huawei telecom network gear installed abroad to spy on the West or disrupt infrastructure. But President Trump has also suggested he could ease up on Huawei as part of a larger trade deal.

China has said relief for Huawei is essential if Beijing is to agree to any trade deal.

Silicon Valley has lobbied hard for the chance to restart some sales, calling Huawei an important customer. The Chinese company is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of telecom network gear and smartphones. Huawei said it spent $11 billion on U.S. semiconductors and software in 2018, before the trade ban.

“We welcome the administration’s approval of export licenses for commercial semiconductor technologies that do not pose national security concerns,” the Semiconductor Industry Association said in an emailed statement Wednesday.

“Sales of these non-sensitive commercial products help ensure the competitiveness of the U.S. semiconductor industry, which is essential to national security,” the group said. “We hope license approvals continue to proceed in an appropriate and timely manner.”

Tech companies have argued they should be allowed to supply Huawei with parts for consumer technology products such as smartphones, arguing such sales won’t hurt U.S. national security.

In an interview on Fox Business Network Tuesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said there had been “290-something requests” for licenses to sell tech to China.

He also defended the 90-day reprieve, the third one the administration has granted since the May ban was imposed. The reprieve will allow a limited number of transactions with Huawei to continue, largely to help rural U.S. telecom companies maintain networks that use Huawei equipment, Ross said.

“You can’t cut the local people in the rural communities out of telephones,” he said.


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