Uncertainty over Huawei ban one month out

There is heightened concern among U.S. lawmakers over Chinese telecom giant Huawei one month out from a deadline by the Trump administration for American companies to stop doing business with the firm.

There are lingering questions about the ban itself. The Commerce Department added the firm to a prohibited “entity list” in May before issuing temporary extensions through mid-August. Those were renewed again until Nov. 19, with Saturday marking the one-month deadline for companies to cut off business with the firm.

The Trump administration has urged companies to stop doing business with the telecom giant due to concerns it may pose a threat to U.S. national security, but the exact timing of the ban has also been complicated by ongoing U.S. trade negotiations with China. Trump has floated Huawei as a potential bargaining chip.

Worries from Democrats: Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a leading member of Congress on tech issues and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters on Thursday that “this is a time to be very tough with respect to holding the line on Huawei.”

Sen. Mark Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Intelligence panel, told The Hill that he did not “have a lot of confidence that the president understands the implications, that this should not be part of a trade discussion.”

Warner referenced efforts by the State Department and other agencies to convince allied nations to cut Huawei out of their networks and asked, “How would we have credibility to go back on any other technology issue?” if President Trump were to “trade away” Huawei.

Companies in limbo: Robert Mayer, the senior vice president of cybersecurity at USTelecom, which represents broadband providers nationwide, said the uncertainty around the Huawei ban is fueling uncertainty in the telecommunications industry.

Huawei’s defense: A spokesperson for Huawei told The Hill that should the temporary license not be extended, the U.S. economy could take a hit.

“Huawei purchases $11 billion in products from American companies each year,” the spokesperson said. “If Huawei is forced to find alternative suppliers, up to 40,000 to 50,000 jobs could be affected. Huawei will feel pressure in the short term. However, as foreign companies diversify their supply chain to not rely on the U.S., this will have a larger, long-term impact on U.S. companies — and particularly affect individual workers and their families.”