US 'could ease Huawei sanctions' if China trade deal advances

10 June 2019, 10:27 | Updated: 10 June 2019, 12:34

US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin reportedly told G20 finance ministers that President Donald Trump may ease sanctions on Huawei if he sees progress in trade talks with China.

Speaking in Fukuoka, Japan, on Sunday, Mr Mnuchin claimed the restrictions on Huawei could be eased if the US trade negotiations with China progressed.

However, he later claimed to CNBC: "As we've said all along, the Huawei discussions are really national security discussions, they're separate from trade."

Mr Mnuchin's comments will dirty the waters around the real intention for the US sanctions.

The US claims Huawei's equipment posed a security hazard for the nations in which they were installed, but the company has claimed that the sanctions are instead being tactically applied during the trade negotiations.

Mr Trump declared a "national emergency" in May as his administration imposed severe sanctions on the Chinese telecoms giant.

The order bars US companies from using telecommunications equipment made by firms deemed to pose a national security risk.

At the time, a Chinese government spokesman said that national security "should not be abused, and that it should not be used as a tool for trade protectionism".

He added: "China will take all the necessary measures to resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights of Chinese firms."

American officials have warned that Huawei equipment could be exploited by Beijing for espionage or sabotage purposes - and have even called for it to be banned in allies' countries in the face of such risks.

The sanctions in the US have also had a huge impact on American companies which provide software and other technology as part of Huawei's consumer business.

Google said it is revoking Huawei's access to its Android mobile operating system to comply with the White House sanctions, leaving the company's new phones without any software to power them.

Microsoft, Facebook and chip-designing firm Arm have also suggested they would no longer work with Huawei due to the sanctions.

A leak from the UK's National Security Council meeting in April suggested that Theresa May had approved Huawei's bid to help build Britain's 5G network.

But the government has since said no decision has been taken on whether the Chinese company, which is facing significant sanctions in the US, can play a role in UK networks.

MPs from the UK's science and technology committee will question Chinese telecoms giant Huawei on Monday as part of a parliamentary inquiry into security risks around 5G.