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Trump’s acting budget chief seeks delay on Huawei ban

A man uses his smartphone last month outside of a shop selling Huawei products at a mall in Beijing.
A man uses his smartphone last month outside of a shop selling Huawei products at a mall in Beijing. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

The acting director of the White House Office of Management and Budget is seeking a two-year delay of a ban prohibiting companies that do business with Chinese telecom giant Huawei from providing services to the U.S. government.

In a letter to Vice President Pence and nine members of Congress, the office’s acting director Russell T. Vought said the delay would give companies more time to comply with the ban, which is set to take effect in one year and one month.

If the delay is approved, the ban would take effect in three years and one month.

“The Administration believes, based on feedback from impacted stakeholders, that this additional preparatory work will better ensure the effective implementation of the prohibition without compromising desired security objectives,” Vought said in the letter.

News of the letter was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Huawei is the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker and has significant backing from the Chinese government. The Justice Department has accused it of violating sanctions on Iran, among other things.

The ban is one of three by the U.S. government against Huawei. Last year, President Trump signed a defense-spending bill that barred the federal government and its contractors from doing business with Huawei and several other Chinese companies on national security grounds. The Commerce Department last month imposed a penalty on the firm that makes it difficult for it to do business with any U.S. company.

Some U.S. tech companies have applied for licenses that would allow them to continue to sell to Huawei, arguing that the Commerce Department ban could harm their bottom lines and their ability to innovate.

On Sunday night, Jacob Wood, an OMB spokesman, said: “There is not a change to administration policy with regard to Huawei and would not delay the ban taking effect this year on the federal government doing business with them. It also would not stop or delay the restrictions Commerce announced on the sale of U.S. technology to Huawei. This is about ensuring that companies who do business with the U.S. government or receive federal grants and loans have time to extricate themselves from doing business with Huawei and other Chinese tech companies listed in the NDAA.”

The proposed delay would stretch well past Trump’s first term in office and could force the next president, if Trump loses next year, to decide whether to continue the policy.