Mnuchin reportedly urging U.S. chipmakers to seek licenses for Huawei sales

Huawei building
U.S. chipmakers are confused about how to get licenses to sell to Huawei, which remains on a blacklist. (FierceElectronics)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has been quietly urging U.S. chipmakers and other suppliers to Huawei to obtain licenses to resume sales to Huawei despite its blacklist status, according to a report.

U.S. President Donald Trump agreed on June 29 after meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping in Japan that U.S. companies could receive exemptions to the blacklist when national security wouldn’t be put in jeopardy. Huawei was placed on a U.S. Commerce Department entity list in May as a blacklisted firm based on concerns about security.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Mnuchin was urging companies to seek licenses, based on unnamed people familiar with the situation. But the publication updated the story to say a Treasury Department spokeswoman disputed that account.

“At no point has the Secretary ‘urged’ any company to take any action with regard to Huawei,” Treasury spokeswoman Monica Crowley told the Journal.

U.S. chipmakers have been especially frustrated by the restrictions on sales to Huawei, one of the worlds’ largest makers of servers, smartphones and other computer gear. Officials for several component and chip producers expressed hopes for some relief before President Trump relaxed the ban in late June, but wouldn’t comment on the record, based on interviews with FierceElectronics.

After the meeting between President Trump and President Xi, one U.S. industry executive told the Journal that it still wasn’t clear how the administration will determine what is a threat to national security. “It’s clear as mud,” the executive reportedly said.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reiterated the views of President Trump at a conference on Tuesday, saying that his department would issues licenses to U.S. firms to sell to Huawei “where there is no threat to U.S. national security.” But he also sounded careful, adding that there will be a presumption to deny applications for licenses to do business with Huawei. He added that he doesn’t plan to remove Huawei from the entity listing.

Many U.S. companies are waiting for more clarity on the Huawei situation and for resumption of trade talks between the U.S. and China. Chipmakers globally are facing a five-month downturn in chip revenues and a forecast of an 18% drop in chipmaking equipment sales.

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