U.S. likely to extend limited export waiver for Huawei

By Adam Behsudi

The Commerce Department is expected to grant a six-month extension to permit rural telecommunications firms to do some transactions with blacklisted Chinese equipment-maker Huawei, said two people familiar with the decision.

The administration has already extended the so-called temporary general license once before. The current waiver is set to expire on Monday. It allows U.S. firms to continue to engage in a limited number of transactions with Huawei, such as supplying existing networks and equipment and providing software updates and patches to Huawei handsets.

A Commerce spokesperson declined to confirm if the waiver would be extended.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross acknowledged in August that several rural telecommunications providers depend on Huawei equipment. Extending the temporary export waiver will allow rural internet providers to continue to buy parts and software.

The temporary export license, however, does not cover major transactions between U.S. semiconductor manufacturers like Intel, Qualcomm and Micron that supply microchips to the Shenzhen-based company, which is one of the world's largest manufacturers of telecommunications equipment.

Commerce is still sitting on applications for export licenses that would allow those transactions to continue, and there's no schedule for when those waivers might be granted, the people said.

U.S. chipmakers have argued that semiconductors used in most of Huawei's phones are widely available on the world market and exports do not represent a national security risk. The U.S. semiconductor industry has argued the export ban is hurting U.S. companies by giving an advantage to foreign competitors in South Korea and Taiwan.

Ross had said in the past that Commerce would consider any export waiver that doesn’t jeopardize national security.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said last month that easing broader export restrictions on Huawei would not be part of a so-called phase one trade deal the U.S. and China are working to finalize in the coming weeks.