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US controls have no impact, talking to Google: Huawei

Updated May 22, 2019

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London: President of Huawei’s Honour brand, George Zhao, launches the Honour 20 range of smartphones at an event on Tuesday where footballer Dele Alli was named a brand ambassador. —Reuters
London: President of Huawei’s Honour brand, George Zhao, launches the Honour 20 range of smartphones at an event on Tuesday where footballer Dele Alli was named a brand ambassador. —Reuters

BEIJING: The founder of Huawei expressed confidence Washington’s curbs on sales to the Chinese tech giant will have little impact and said on Tuesday it is discussing “emergency relief” from Google for possible loss of services for its smartphone business.

Read: Some Google apps may stop working on Huawei phones amid US-China trade war

Huawei Technologies Ltd., the biggest maker of network gear for phone carriers, has “supply backups” if it loses access to American components, Ren Zhengfei told Chinese reporters. His comments were broadcast by state TV and other outlets.

The Trump administration’s order last week steps up pressure on Huawei, which Washington says is a security risk, and threatens to hamper sales of network gear and other products. Huawei is the No. 2 global smartphone brand but relies on Google’s Android operating system and US components suppliers.

China’s government repeated its promise to defend Chinese companies abroad but gave no details of what Beijing might do.

American officials say Huawei and other Chinese telecom equipment vendors are a risk because they beholden to the ruling Communist Party. Huawei denies accusations it facilitates Chinese spying.

The US controls “will have no impact within this company” and none on development of next-generation telecom technology, Ren said. He said some low-end business might be affected.

Huawei has developed its own chips for some smartphones and other products but relies on American suppliers for its most advanced components.

Huawei and Google are discussing possible “emergency relief measures” for its smartphone business, which might lose access to some of the American company’s services, Ren said. He gave no details.

Google, a unit of Alphabet Inc., said its basic services still will work on Huawei smartphones, which use its Android operating system.

Google gave no details of what services might be curtailed. But the company would be barred from transferring hardware or software directly to Huawei. That would affect maps or other services that require the American company’s support.

Huawei trails only Samsung of South Korea in global smartphone sales. Industry analysts say it might struggle to compete if it cannot line up replacements for Google services that run afoul of the US curbs.

“I should say this impact will be very big, but Google is an extremely good company,” Ren said. “We are discussing emergency relief measures.” A foreign ministry spokesman accused Washington of misusing “state power” to hurt foreign companies and interfere in commercial markets.

“The Chinese government has determination and ability to safeguard its legitimate and lawful rights and interests,” said the spokesman, Lu Kang.

Apple Inc., Huawei’s main American rival in smartphones, makes a prominent potential target for Beijing. The company’s iPhones are assembled in China and the country is its No. 2 market after the United States.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2019