WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration on Friday moved to block shipments of semiconductors to Huawei Technologies from global chipmakers, in an action that could ramp up tensions with China.
The U.S. Commerce Department said it was amending an export rule to “strategically target Huawei’s acquisition of semiconductors that are the direct product of certain U.S. software and technology.”
Reuters first reported the news ahead of the department’s release. The department said its “announcement cuts off Huawei’s efforts to undermine U.S. export controls.”
The rule change is a blow to Huawei, the world’s no. 2 smartphone maker, as well as to Taiwan’s Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd, a major producer of chips for Huawei’s HiSilicon unit as well as mobile phone rivals Apple Inc and Qualcomm Inc. TMSC announced late Thursday it would build a $12 billion chip factory in Arizona. TSMC did not immediately comment Friday.
Huawei, which needs semiconductors for its widely used smartphones and telecoms equipment, is at the heart of a battle for global technological dominance between the United States and China.
Huawei, which has warned that the Chinese government would retaliate if the rule went into effect, did not immediately comment on Friday. U.S. stock market futures turned negative on the Reuters report.
“The Chinese government will not just stand by and watch Huawei be slaughtered on the chopping board,” Huawei Chairman Eric Xu told reporters on March 31.
The United States is trying to convince allies to exclude Huawei gear from next generation 5G networks on grounds its equipment could be used by China for spying. Huawei has repeatedly denied the claim.
Huawei has continued to use U.S. software and technology to design semiconductors, the Commerce Department said, despite being placed on a U.S. economic blacklist in May 2019.
Under the rule change, foreign companies that use U.S. chipmaking equipment will be required to obtain a U.S. license before supplying certain chips to Huawei, or an affiliate like HiSilicon.
In order for Huawei to continue to receive some chipsets or use some semiconductor designs tied to certain U.S. software and technology, it would need to receive licenses from the Commerce Department.