US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Chinese telecom giant Huawei remains a national security threat – except when it can be used to wring a better deal out of China.
“I think what the president is saying is, if we move forward on trade, that perhaps he’ll be willing to do certain things on Huawei if he gets comfort from China on that and certain guarantees,” Mnuchin said Sunday.
Mnuchin’s words double down on the contradictory arguments made by US President Donald Trump in May, after he put the Chinese 5G technology pioneer on the US’ blacklist.
“Huawei is something that’s very dangerous,” he said at the time, talking about the supposed security and military risks of letting Huawei into the US market. At the same time, he admitted that he would be willing to yield to get a better deal in the ongoing trade war with China. Huawei, ostensibly a menace to US national security, could become part of a trade agreement “in some form.”
As Huawei was about to start rolling out 5G networks around the world, the US began stoking fears that the Chinese firm is a spying outlet for Beijing. The Trump administration launched a wide-ranging campaign to browbeat its allies in Europe, Asia, and Latin America to ditch the company. While some have already caved in, like Australia and New Zealand, others haven’t, including Germany and France. Latin America has also defied the US, with Trump’s major ally in the region, Brazil, leading the resistance.
“If China doesn’t want to move forward, then President Trump is perfectly happy to move forward with tariffs to rebalance the relationship,” Mnuchin added on Sunday.
Trump has claimed the US is benefiting from the punitive tariffs he has imposed on billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese goods, and keeps the threat of imposing more primed and ready at all times. Those claims have repeatedly come under scrutiny and have been contradicted by his own top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, who last month begrudgingly admitted that both sides are losing from the spiraling trade war, with American businesses and consumers among those who end up paying for it.
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