Huawei's spat with the U.S. government has been going on for a few months now. In May, the Chinese firm was put on the U.S. Department of Commerce's (DOC) entity list, effectively banning it from purchasing any material from U.S. suppliers without government approval. As a result, Huawei had to work its way through a period of turmoil, with many firms suspending shipments to the company.
However, the ban was said to have been lifted, as noted by U.S. President Donald Trump, after his meeting with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in June. It was later confirmed that the lifting of the sanctions only applied to some widely available U.S. products, and that Huawei would still remain on the entity list.
Now, Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith has voiced his opinions regarding the whole situation, implying the U.S. government's treatment of Huawei is un-American. Not only did he criticize the United States' stance in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, but he also explored the possible ramifications of the country's actions in his upcoming book, Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age.
Smith believes that there is no reason Huawei shouldn't be allowed to buy U.S. tech from Microsoft. He noted that the tech giant had asked U.S. regulators to explain the thinking behind their decisions. The response of the ones being questioned is described in the following way:
"Oftentimes, what we get in response is, 'Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us, 'And our answer is, 'Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That’s the way this country works.'"
Significant actions like the ones taken by the DOC require more reasoning behind them, according to Smith, and shouldn't be made without a "sound basis in fact, logic, and the rule of law".
Smith further noted that Trump's experience with the hotel industry should have prompted him to make a better decision regarding the situation. Drawing parallels between hotel management and the trade ban inflicted upon Huawei, he noted:
"To tell a tech company 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 that company at risk."
In his soon-to-be-released book, the Microsoft President has predicted tighter restrictions on the exporting of emerging tech to follow soon. "You can’t be a global technology leader if you can’t bring your technology to the globe," he noted, showcasing his worries regarding the potential impact of these strictures on Microsoft.
Smith also states that the tech giant has asked the DOC to scrutinize only the sale of specific products to specific customers that may pose a national security risk. He further suggested that standards for data collection and privacy should be governed by a coalition of democracies, allowing for the sharing of "appropriate" data.
Although there have been some bright signs regarding the whole situation in recent weeks, it doesn't look like a permanent resolution seems to be coming any time soon. Huawei, meanwhile, is taking its own steps to ensure that it has a good backup plan, should things end up going awry.
Source: Bloomberg (paywall)
Update: The word "un-American" was not specifically used by Microsoft's President in the interview with Bloomberg. As such, the article title and body has been updated to reflect this information. We regret the error.