Washington (CNN) The US government is reviewing a policy that would allow certain US exports to continue to Huawei, despite a general push by the Trump and Biden administrations to block the Chinese telecommunications giant from receiving US technology.
Alan Estevez, a Commerce Department official, told lawmakers Tuesday that the policy is “under review” as the agency conducts a “top-to-bottom review of our export control policies related to the (People’s Republic of China).”
Estevez testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which held a hearing to examine China’s impact on US national security.
In 2019, Huawei was one of a number of Chinese companies placed on the Commerce Department’s Entity List, which prohibits US companies from trading specified goods with entities named on the list unless they are licensed to do so.
US officials have expressed concern that Huawei’s 5G wireless networking equipment could allow the Chinese government to spy on US communications. Huawei has denied it poses a security risk, and its founder has said the company will resist any Chinese government efforts to obtain the data.
According to Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, between January and March 2022, the Commerce Department approved more than $23 billion in license applications to trade with Chinese-affiliated companies on the Entity List. Speaking to Estevez at Tuesday’s hearing, McCaul asked the Commerce Department to frame the license approvals in relation to the US government’s broader efforts to target Huawei and similar companies.
“A licensing rule from the previous administration that still stands for Huawei allows things below 5G, below cloud level to go,” Estevez said, “and I would say all of those things are under consideration.”
Entity List restrictions do not provide a “blanket embargo” on exports in general, Estevez added, but rather reflect specific rules on particular exports.
Separately, the Commerce Department moved in 2020 to bar Huawei’s suppliers from selling the company’s semiconductor chips made from American-built software and equipment, unless those suppliers also obtained a license.
Other parts of the US government have also moved against Huawei. The Federal Communications Commission has banned US wireless carriers from using federal funding to buy Huawei network equipment, and last year also banned future approvals of Huawei equipment for sale in the US, in the first use of the FCC’s equipment authorization authority for a national security purpose.