Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith says, “The way the US government is treating Huawei is un-American.”
In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, he said that Huawei should be allowed to buy US technology despite Trump placing a ban on this action.
As far as he knows, China’s leading maker of networking equipment and mobile phones should be allowed to buy US technology, including software from his company.
Such actions shouldn’t be taken without a “sound basis in fact, logic, and the rule of law,” Smith says, adding that Microsoft has asked US regulators to explain themselves.
Trump should know better, Smith says, citing Trump’s experience in the hotel industry. “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.”
Smith is on the circuit right now to discuss his new book, Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age, in which US and China tensions feature heavily. He worries that broader and tighter strictures could soon follow after the Huawei case.
The Commerce Department is considering new restrictions on the export of emerging technologies on which Microsoft has placed big bets, including artificial intelligence and quantum computing. “You can’t be a global technology leader if you can’t bring your technology to the globe,” Smith says.
Microsoft also wants to make sure academic research can continue to cross borders, including from Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing.
Previously on May 15, Trump signed the executive order banning US companies from using communications technology from anyone deemed a national security threat. His administration’s Commerce Department followed by adding Huawei to its “Entity List”, effectively barring the Chinese telecoms giant from the US market and it is scheduled to take full effect in November.
For the same security concerns, Japan, Australia and New Zealand have also barred local firms from using Huawei to provide the technology for their 5G networks.
On May 24, Trump called Huawei “very dangerous” while at the same time saying the company could be a bargaining chip in a trade deal.
Huawei, run by a former Chinese army technologist, has been leading in the development of 5G, the next-generation mobile communications technology predicted to revolutionise it.
“The endgame is to try to build a global 5G network that has no Chinese equipment in it,” Paul Triolo, chief of global technology policy practice for the Eurasia Group (a risk consultancy) said. “There is a huge constituency that doesn’t want to see China dominate that technology.”
However, it is not yet clear how US will build the latest network without Chinese firms.
Senator Lindsey Graham, the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said, “We need to up our 5G game because if there's nobody other than China [that can provide the technology], we’ve got a problem.”