Trump made one of his characteristic off-hand comments after meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping during the G-20 summit in Osaka on the weekend, saying: “US companies can sell their equipment to Huawei. We’re talking about equipment where there’s no great national security problem with it.”
Whether that means a complete removal of the company from the so-called Entity List — inclusion means that a company has to seek government permission in order to buy products from US firms — or not is still to be clarified.
Huawei was placed on the Entity List on 16 May. Five days later, the US Commerce Department said the ban would be eased for 90 days, so that existing networks and handsets which had already been sold by the Chinese firm would continue to receive software updates.
The US also imposed a ban on the use of products from Huawei and its fellow Chinese vendor ZTE Corporation on 16 May. This means the secretary of commerce has the authority to ban transactions deemed to include possible risk to US national security.
Trump did a complete reversal on ZTE last year, after the company was found to have breached US domestic sanctions on selling products to Iran and North Korea and banned from doing business in the US for seven years.
He justified this decision by saying it reflected the bigger trade deal that was being negotiated with China and his personal relationship with Xi.
More than once, Trump has hinted that Huawei could be used as a bargaining chip in the wider US-China trade deal.
Apart from the US, Australia has banned Huawei from participating in the building of 5G networks, while New Zealand has turned down one effort for a joint build by the telco Spark and Japan is reported to have also shunned Huawei. The position in other countries is still unclear.