U.S. Agents Told Huawei Still Blacklisted Despite Trump Comments, Because Nothing Means Anything

Photo: Kevin Frayer (Getty)

Last week during the Group of 20 summit in Japan, President Donald Trump announced that U.S. companies could start selling tech components to Huawei, seemingly halting a weeks-long ban on sales to the Chinese tech giant.

The dizzying pivot alleviated some of the tension that’s been growing between Washington and Beijing for months, but the move left many people perplexed and was immediately criticized by some Republican lawmakers, like Tennessee senator Marsha Blackburn and Florida senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio. On Saturday, Rubio tweeted: “If President Trump has agreed to reverse recent sanctions against #Huawei he has made a catastrophic mistake. It will destroy the credibility of his administrations warnings about the threat posed by the company, no one will ever again take them seriously.”

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But it seems a key federal agency isn’t following the perplexing order just yet. Reuters reports that Commerce Department staff have been told to continue to treat Huawei as blacklisted.

The news outlet reviewed an email that John Sonderman, deputy director for export enforcement in the the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security, sent to enforcement staff on Monday.

The message reportedly explained how agents should handle companies requesting approval to sell products to Huawei. According to Reuters, Sonderman wrote that Huawei is on the “Entity List” of companies that U.S. firms aren’t permitted to sell to without government permission. The email also reportedly said that applications requesting to sell products to Huawei should be assessed by enforcement staff under a presumption of denial policy.

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The Department of Commerce and its Bureau of Industry and Security did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s requests for comment.

Reuters reports that this email is the only guidance that has been given to enforcement staff since Trump’s confusing announcement about Huawei at G20—in other words, another regular week in 2019.

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Updated 1:15 p.m. ET: A Department of Commerce spokesperson confirmed to Gizmodo that Huawei is still on the “Entity List” and the agency is reviewing export license applications to check for national security impact, with the presumption of denial.

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Jennings Brown

Senior editor and reporter at Gizmodo