Microsoft President Brad Smith pushes back on Trump administration’s Huawei ban

Microsoft President Brad Smith. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy)

Microsoft President Brad Smith wants to see more evidence behind the Trump administration’s reasoning for cutting off Chinese tech giant Huawei from U.S. technology.

Smith told Bloomberg Businessweek that the company has asked regulators to explain why the administration decided to put Huawei on an “entity list” earlier this year. The move bars companies, including Microsoft, from selling technology to Huawei without government approval.

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“Oftentimes, what we get in response is, ‘Well, if you knew what we knew, you would agree with us,’” Smith told Bloomberg. “And our answer is, ‘Great, show us what you know so we can decide for ourselves. That’s the way this country works.’”

The Trump administration has gone back and forth on Huawei, which has become a central part of trade wars between the U.S. and China. Though the administration put Huawei on an export blacklist earlier this year, it later offered a grace period that was extended until November.

In the interview with Bloomberg, Smith appealed to Trump’s real estate background in his critique of the administration’s handling of Huawei.

“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.”

Huawei and Microsoft have teamed up in the past. In 2017, the two companies struck a deal to host Microsoft’s enterprise technology software on Huawei’s public cloud in China. Bloomberg noted that Huawei is also an important Windows 10 customer, pre-loading the operating system onto its laptops.

Another Seattle-area tech company is on less friendly terms with Huawei. In 2017, a federal jury sided with T-Mobile in a long-running dispute against Huawei over a smartphone testing robot. T-Mobile alleged Huawei stole designs and parts of the company’s top secret cell phone testing robot, nicknamed “Tappy.” While T-Mobile did win at trial, it was only awarded $4.8 million in damages, a far cry from the $500 million it sought.