In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Microsoft President and chief legal officer Brad Smith criticized the Trump administration for its blacklisting of Chinese tech conglomerate Huawei. The executive boldly called Washington’s treatment of the Sino firm “un-American.”
He also slammed the U.S. Department of Commerce’s plan to tighten restrictions on American exports. “You can’t be a global technology leader if you can’t bring your technology to the globe,” said Smith.
Smith’s Take on the Huawei Ban
Smith has a problem with the U.S. government barring American firms from doing business with Huawei because the blockages lack credibility. The executive argues that Washington hasn’t supported its claim that the Sino corporation is an organ of the Chinese government. He also said that the regulators’ accusations of Huawei being a threat to national security haven’t been validated.
The tech industry executive said that the government’s blacklisting of Huawei doesn’t have a “sound basis in fact, logic, and the rule of law.”
It’s worth noting that Microsoft would benefit greatly if the Sino telecom were taken off the Commerce Department’s Entity List. Before the trade ban, the Big Tech firm licensed Windows to the Chinese conglomerate for use in its computers. Indeed, as Huawei worked to become one of the world’s largest laptop manufacturers, Microsoft likely made millions by selling services to the controversial conglomerate.
In July, executives representing Alphabet, Intel, Micron, and Qualcomm asked President Trump to allow them to do business with Huawei. As the company spent $11 billion buying American components and software in 2018, its blacklisting has been a significant economic blow to the U.S. tech sector. However, despite the Commander-in-Chief noting that trade licenses would be forthcoming, the Commerce Department hasn’t issued any despite receiving over 130 requests.
The Microsoft CLO also took issue with the Trump administration’s broader approach towards global technological development. Smith pointed out that the Commerce Department is contemplating the placement of restrictions on exports of artificial intelligence and quantum computing tech. The executive believes that the government should instead sanction individual entities threatening the U.S.’s interests.
Furthermore, Microsoft believes that global academic research is vital to bring emerging technologies to maturity.
To counter the influence of the Chinese government, Smith argues that America and its allies should establish privacy and data collection standards. Subsequently, Microsoft could put pressure on Huawei to adhere to those standards. He explains that other nations will step up if U.S. firms are prevented from leading the world in tech innovation.
A recent interview from Huawei Chairman Eric Xu unsurprisingly supports Smith’s assertions. The Chinese executive told German newspaper Handelsblatt that his company isn’t depending on U.S suppliers to maintain its operations. “We are already self-sufficient today. If it were otherwise, we would have gone bankrupt,” said Xu.
Indeed, Huawei is preparing to ship out its consumer electronics with a new homegrown operating system called Harmony. As the world’s second-largest smartphone manufacturer, the Chinese firm has the reach to make Harmony the new global standard.
If that happens, software makers like Microsoft and Google will be playing catch-up instead of leading the pack. That transition would have a significant impact on U.S. technology corporations and their millions of workers. The fallout would not be positive.