White House, Trudeau seek to distance themselves from Huawei move

Updated December 08, 2018

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US President Donald Trump. — File
US President Donald Trump. — File

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump did not know about plans to arrest a top executive at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei in Canada, two US officials said on Thursday, in an apparent attempt to stop the incident from impeding crucial trade talks with Beijing.

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, the 46-year-old daughter of the company’s founder, was detained in Canada on Dec 1, the same day Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping dined together at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

A White House official said Trump did not know about a US request for her extradition from Canada before he met Xi and agreed to a 90-day truce in the brewing trade war.

Meng’s arrest during a stopover in Vancouver, announced by the Canadian authorities on Wednesday, pummelled stock markets already nervous about tensions between the world’s two largest economies on fears the move could derail the planned trade talks.

The arrest was made at Washington’s request as part of a US investigation of an alleged scheme to use the global banking system to evade US sanctions against Iran, according to people familiar with the probe.

Another US official said that while it was a Justice Department matter and not orchestrated in advance by the White House, the case could send a message that Washington is serious about what it sees as Beijing’s violations of international trade norms.

The official acknowledged that the arrest could complicate efforts to reach a broader US-China trade deal but would not necessarily damage the process.

Meng’s detention also raised concerns about potential retaliation from Beijing in Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to distance himself from the arrest.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018