WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday the United States was not sending “mixed messages” on Huawei Technologies and he does not believe a U.S. blacklist of the Chinese telecommunications giant will block a trade deal with Beijing.
“I don’t think there’s a mixed message at all,” Pompeo said in an interview with CNBC.
“The threat of having Chinese telecoms systems inside of American networks or inside of networks around the world presents an enormous risk, a national security risk,” he said.
Washington blacklisted Huawei in May, alleging the Chinese company is involved in activities contrary to U.S. national security or foreign policy interests.
The United States extended a reprieve that permits Huawei to buy components from U.S. companies to supply existing customers, the Commerce Department said on Monday, but it also moved to add more than 40 of Huawei’s units to its economic blacklist.
President Donald Trump, however, indicated over the weekend there would be no extension, saying what would happen would be the “opposite.”
“We’re actually open not to doing business with them,” Trump said on Sunday.
Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunications equipment maker, is still prohibited from buying American parts and components to manufacture new products without additional special licenses.
The Huawei dispute coincides with a trade war between the world’s two largest economies. Talks are at a standstill for now, with the threat of greater tariffs and other trade restrictions hanging over the world economy.
Asked if Chinese President Xi Jinping was stalling negotiations because of U.S. actions toward Huawei, Pompeo said: “That’s not been our experience. That is not what’s happening today.”
“I think he’s prepared to engage in a complex set of trade negotiations,” Pompeo told CNBC. “So, no, he hasn’t walked away, he hasn’t said ‘I won’t talk if you do these things.’”
The United States in May added Huawei to the so-called Entity List, effectively banning the telecom giant from buying parts and components from American companies without government approval.
Shortly afterward, the Commerce Department allowed Huawei to buy some American-made goods to minimize disruption for its customers, including rural U.S. telecommunications companies that use Huawei equipment in their networks.
Pomepo conceded “the world was late to the game” and let Chinese telecommunications companies get a jump start on providing supplies for the networks of the United States and its allies. He said it will take time to unravel from Huawei and other Chinese systems.
“There’s enormous costs in some of these transitions. You can’t rip and tear it all up at once,” he said. “So our effort is to put together a pathway where … the risk from Chinese Communist Party-connected telecom companies isn’t present in the United States or the trusted networks in which the United States participates all over the world.”
Huawei has repeatedly denied it is controlled by China’s ruling Communist Party.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Humeyra Pamuk; editing by Jonathan Oatis