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US will grant Huawei trade ban exemptions 'very shortly'

There have already been 260 requests for special licenses.
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AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

The Commerce Department's de facto blacklisting of Huawei might loosen slightly in the near future. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Bloomberg in an interview that licenses allowing US companies to deal with Huawei would arrive "very shortly." There have been 260 requests, or "more than we would've thought," but Ross cautioned against assuming that the US government would rubber stamp them. Companies should assume they won't get a license, even if the US expects to approve "quite a few" of these exceptions.

Ross didn't give hints as to which firms had applied for licenses. However, the trade ban has conspicuously affected Google more than some companies. Huawei can't offer new phones with a version of Android using Google apps so long as the blacklisting remains in effect, and its ability to update existing phones will go away when temporary licenses expire. A more permanent license might let Google and Huawei resume their earlier business.

Telecoms might not be so lucky, though. The Huawei ban was largely prompted by concerns that China might push Huawei to spy on Americans through cellular equipment, and the FCC has even proposed banning telecoms from using Huawei hardware if they receive Universal Service Fund money. Those companies that do receive exceptions are most likely to have little to do with telecom infrastructure.

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