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US-China trade was: Trump may be targeting Huawei, but impact could be wider



President Donald Trump issued an executive order on Wednesday barring US companies from using information and communication technology made or controlled by national security risk, and declaring a national emergency on the matter.

While the order didn t mention any countries or companies in particular, it's clearly aimed at China. More specifically, many are arguing, it's aimed at Huawei, the Chinese telecoms and smartphone manufacturing giant.

The US government, along with several other nations, has long suspected that Huawei is using its 5G broadband network to spy on behalf of the Chinese government. Last month, the Times reported that the CIA has evidence that Huawei has received funding from branches of Beijing's state-of-the-art security apparatus and shared information with the UK on pressure to adopt Huawei's 5G network.

"The president has made it clear that this administration will do what it takes to keep America safe and prosperous, and to protect America from foreign adversaries who are actively and increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology infrastructure and services, ”The White House said in a statement. Huawei has vehemently denied the spying accusations. Its CEO just recently stated that it was willing to sign “no-spy” agreements with foreign governments such as the UK to ease concerns and open business.

But those promises are not enough to stop the Trump administration from taking major steps that will limit business with Huawei over security concerns.

Separately from the executive order, the US Commerce Department placed the company and 70 of its affiliates on a trade blacklist, requiring Huawei to seek prior approval from the US government before buying any American parts. That could effectively stop business for some of Huawei's product lines that rely on American suppliers.

This is not the start of Huawei's troubles with the US government. In January, US federal prosecutors charged the company and one of its top executives with 23 indictments for allegedly stealing US trade secrets and other crimes, and requested to extradite Huawei's CFO, Meng Wanzhou, from Canada, where she is being held under charges of fraud

While the US is not alone in its legitimate concerns about Huawei's 5G technology, the executive order and national emergency is not all about security; it's inextricably tied to this political moment and an intensifying trade war.

Trump's trade was ramping up

The executive order comes at a time when the titanium trade between China and the US is rapidly escalating. Trump has lambasted Chinese trade policies from the get-go of his political career – during the 2016 campaign, he used China or "raping" the US economy, and vowed to put an end to it. Since 2018, the president has launched a series of higher and higher tariffs on Chinese imports into the US, and Beijing has returned the same for US imports.

Last year, the US applied tariffs of up to 25 percent on $ 250 billion in Chinese goods, from handbags to railway equipment, out of $ 539 billion in Chinese imports total. China followed suit, imposing tariffs on $ 110 billion worth of goods (out of $ 120 billion in total US imports, total). Currently, the US is increasing its tariffs up to 25 percent on virtually all Chinese imports – hitting an additional $ 300 billion.

Hopes that the countries could reach an economic ceasefire were crushed last week when two days or intense trade negotiations fell apart in Washington. Shortly after the talks ended, Trump raised the $ 200 billion worth of Chinese products, particularly auto parts, from 10 to 25 percent. China in turn announced it would significantly raise taxes on a large but undisclosed total amount of American goods, including natural gas from 10 to 25 percent.

It's a vicious cycle that upsets global financial markets and politicians alike.

So why is Trump doing this? Part of the stated goal is to reduce the trade deficit between the US and China. Last year, the US spent more than $ 539 trillion from China than it exported goods to China ($ 120.3 billion). If that were better, some economists would argue that would help create more jobs in the US, especially in specific sectors like manufacturing. But other economists were argue trade deficits, and that it is actually a sign of a stronger economy that US consumers, with more money to spend, are spending more on imports.

That's why some, such as Vox's Matt Yglesias, argue that Trump may effectively use tariffs to gain leverage (whether intentionally or not) in larger negotiations about US technology from spying and cementing the preeminent position of US technology in the global marketplace.

In addition to reducing the trade deficit, the US has demanded that China end industrial espionage and "forced technology transfers" requiring US companies entering the Chinese market to provide some of their proprietary technology, or intellectual property, to Chinese companies. . (It's worth noting that these companies are willing to make an exchange for access to cheap, skilled labor.) Regardless, in the aggregate, there is a concern that this dominance of US technology if companies are giving up their business. intellectual property, and why trade protectionists want to stop it.

Who will be affected by other than Huawei?

Virtually every company that exports products from the US to China or vice versa – from electronics manufacturers to beer producers – has something to solve in poor economic relations between China and the US. With this executive order, however, US companies that rely on cheaper Chinese suppliers for parts can also be the most affected.

As a code has previously reported, the tariff increases have already had an impact on the bottom line of major US tech Companies like Apple, who depend on selling their products to a growing Chinese consumer market. Apple CEO Tim Cook has publicly reported "rising trade tensions with the United States" for reducing sales in China that had a big hit on the company's overall business.

Still, it's only the beginning of trade war woes for companies like Apple. Last year's tariffs did not apply to iPhones and most other consumer electronic goods that rely on Chinese-made parts. But the latest round of proposed tariffs will tax these parts – forcing firms like Apple to decide whether to absorb the added cost or pass it on to consumers with higher price tags for their phones. a huge impact of this trade, but they have an increase in the prices of some goods. Goldman Sachs economists study the impact of tariffs on consumers found that prices of the nine most-affected goods rose 3 percent since early 2018 while all other goods, excluding food and energy, fell by 2 percent. Despite Trump's claims that the Chinese government pays the cost of all the tariffs, US consumers can pay up too if businesses raise prices.

On the job page, most Americans' careers don’t depend on international trade; they work in the locally focused service industry – like retail or health care. But you can be out of luck if you are, say, a leather handbag designer that imports and sells purses made in China facing an overnight double-digit increase in handbag tariffs.

There's another party who stands uniquely suffering as a specific consequence of this added strain in US-China relations: Americans who live in rural parts of the country

That's why while larger carriers like Verizon don't use Huawei

As the Financial Times reported:

Huawei equipment is not used by any of the major US companies. carriers but is employed by about a quarter of smaller rural network companies, according to the Rural Wireless Association. The group has not seen how much it might cost to replace existing Huawei equipment, though Pine Belt, one of its members, says it could cost them up to $ 14m, while another, Sagebrush, says it could cost $ 57m.

This could be the already limited, and poorly measured level of broadband access for rural Americans, deepening the digital divide in the US. According to the Federal Communications Commission, in urban areas, 97 percent of Americans have access to high-speed fixed service, but in rural areas, that number falls to 65 percent. The Wall Street Journal's Rural Wireless Association could cost $ 800 million to $ 1 billion to replace all low-cost Chinese gear in their wireless networks, if they were forced to do so at new government restrictions.

So, Huawei and the companies it does business with (notably – rural US carriers) will be directly affected by the order. But who else? What about other tech companies based in countries that are considered enemies of the US?

If it stands now, that's pretty unclear. There are still lots of questions about how the executive order will be implemented. The executive order didn't list criteria for what constitutes being considered a foreign adversary, and what companies would fall under that category. Specific guidelines and regulations are expected to be released over the next 150 days.


Recode and Vox have joined forces to uncover and explain how our digital world is changing – and changing us. Subscribe to Recode podcasts to hear Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka lead the tough conversations the technology industry needs today.


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