US is reviewing Huawei export license policy amid rising congressional scrutiny of China
The US government is reviewing a policy that permits certain US exports to continue to Huawei, despite an overall push by the Trump and Biden administrations to block the Chinese telecommunications giant from receiving American technology.
Alan Estevez, a Commerce Department official, told lawmakers Tuesday that the policy is “under assessment” as the agency conducts a “top-to-bottom review of our export control policies related to the [People’s Republic of China].”
Estevez testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which was holding a hearing to scrutinize China’s impact on US national security.
In 2019, Huawei was one of a number of Chinese companies placed on the Commerce Department’s Entity List, which prohibits US companies from trading specified items with entities named on the list unless they obtain a license to do so.
US officials have expressed concerns that Huawei’s 5G wireless networking gear could allow the Chinese government to spy on American communications. Huawei has denied that it poses a security risk, and its founder has said the company would resist any Chinese government effort to obtain its data.
According to Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Michael McCaul, between January and March of 2022 the Commerce Department approved more than $23 billion in license applications to trade with Chinese-affiliated companies on the Entity List. Confronting Estevez at Tuesday’s hearing, McCaul asked the Commerce Department to square the license approvals with the US government’s wider effort to sideline Huawei and similar companies.
“A licensing rule of the previous administration that still stands for Huawei allows things below 5G, below cloud-level to go,” Estevez said, “and I will say that all those things are under assessment.”
Entity List restrictions do not provide for a “blanket embargo” on exports generally, Estevez added, but rather reflect specific rules about particular exports.
Separately, in 2020 the Commerce Department moved to prevent Huawei’s suppliers from selling the company semiconductor chips made by US-built software and equipment, unless those suppliers also obtained a license.
Other parts of the US government have also moved against Huawei. The Federal Communications Commission has prohibited US wireless carriers from using federal funding to purchase Huawei networking gear, and last year also banned future approvals of Huawei equipment for sale in the United States, in the first use of the FCC’s equipment authorization authority for a national security purpose.