11 September 2019

Microsoft legal chief slams Trump over Huawei

Brad Smith says the US administration hasn't made the case for its moves against the Chinese company.

Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith says the treatment of Huawei the Trump administration is “un-American.” Mr Smith believes China’s leading maker of networking equipment and mobile phones should be allowed to buy US technology from his company.

Rule of law

He said actions should not be taken without a “sound basis in fact, logic, and the rule of law,” in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. He said that Microsoft has asked US regulators to explain themselves, “Oftentimes, what we get in response is, ‘Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us.’” His response is “And our answer is, ‘Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That’s the way this country works.’” US President Donald Trump claims Huawei is a national security threat, and his department of commerce has added the company to an export blacklist scheduled to take full effect in November. Microsoft has asked the Commerce Department to consider outlawing sales to particular customers or for particular uses that might pose national security risks, such as universities with ties to the Chinese military. The company also wants to make sure academic research can continue to cross borders, including from Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing.

Tools and weapons

Mr Smith told Bloomberg Mr Trump should know better, citing the US president’s experience in the hotel industry, “To tell a tech company that it can sell products, but not buy an operating system or chips, is like telling a hotel company that it can open its doors, but not put beds in its hotel rooms or food in its restaurant. Either way, you put the survival of that company at risk.” Mr Smith has written a book, which features the tensions between the US and China, called ‘Tools and Weapons: The Promise and the Peril of the Digital Age.’ Mr Smith also raised money for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign in 2016, and says the bigger concern should be America’s leadership on the world stage, citing issues including gun violence and climate change.

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