Microsoft’s legal chief condemns U.S. entity listing of Huawei in report

Microsoft Chief Legal Counsel Brad Smith wants the Trump Administration to explain its worries about Huawei's security threat to the U.S. (Microsoft)

Microsoft’s top legal officer believes the Trump Administration hasn’t made a sufficient case that Huawei should be blacklisted from buying U.S. technology, including Microsoft’s software.

Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith told Bloomberg Businessweek that Huawei’s inclusion on the Entity List starting back in May shouldn’t be taken without “a sound basis in fact, logic and rule of law.” 

Microsoft has asked U.S. regulators to explain themselves and has been told, “well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us.” And Smith said Microsoft has answered, “Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That’s the way this country works.”

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President Trump and top U.S. officials believe Huawei is a national security threat to the U.S. and employs former Chinese army officials who are trained in spying techniques. Huawei denies it spies and says it doesn’t work for the Chinese government.

Specifics of how Huawei is spying or could spy on the U.S. haven’t been revealed, but some security analysts have defended the Trump Administration for not divulging details. If the U.S. did reveal details, Huawei would find other ways to spy by using such information, some analysts have said.

Smith told Bloomberg that to tell a tech company like Huawei “that it can sell products but not buy an operating system or chips is like telling a hotel company that it can open its doors, but not put beds in its hotel rooms or food in its restaurant. Either way, you put the survival of the company at risk.”

Huawei is a top customer for the Microsoft Windows operating system, which is loaded on Huawei consumer laptops under the MateBook line. Smith and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella posed for a photo op with China’s President Xi Jinping at Microsoft with Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

Smith was a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016. He told Bloomberg that the treatment of Huawei could be a sign of tighter trade restrictions that don’t help technology expansion by U.S. companies globally. “You can’t be a global technology leader if you can’t bring technology to the globe,” he said.

Chip company executives have been reluctant to condemn U.S. trade tariffs on Chinese goods or the entity listing of Huawei, fearing the consequences of speaking out, according to several who has spoken to FierceElectronics anonymously.

RELATED: Fearing Trump, many chip CEOs stay mum on U.S.-China trade war

More than 130 U.S. companies have asked the U.S. Commerce Department to grant them special licenses to sell U.S. goods to Huawei and get around the blacklisting. In 2018, Huawei spent $11 billion on electronics made by U.S. companies such as Intel, Qualcomm and Micron.

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