Huawei’s Futurewei unit in Silicon Valley reportedly faces potential export ban

In a rare press conference with international journalists, Ren Zhengfei, Huawei’s founder and CEO, said that his company does not spy for the Chinese government and that it would not respond to improper government requests for information, according to published reports.

“I personally would never harm the interest of my customers and me and my company would not answer to such requests,” Ren said, as reported by Fox Business.

Ren spoke in Mandarin and used a company-provided translator. As reported by CNBC, he told the assembled journalists at Huawei’s headquarters in Shenzen, China, that “when it comes to cybersecurity and privacy protection, we are committed to be sided with our customers. We will never harm any nation or any individual.

“China’s ministry of foreign affairs has officially clarified that no law in China requires any company to install mandatory back doors. Huawei and me personally have never received any request from any government to provide improper information,” Ren added.

Huawei has been trying to deal with concerns around the world that its close relationship with the Chinese government could mean that its telecom network equipment could have “back door” access that would allow spying — concerns which, in some cases, have led to the company being shut out of participating in 5G network bidding or government contracts. The company’s head of sales in Poland was recently arrested by the Polish government, along with an employee of Orange Telecom, for suspected espionage — although initial reports suggested that the charges were individual actions, rather than associated with Huawei as a company.

The arrest in Poland was the second recent instance of a Huawei employee being arrested abroad. In December, Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou — who is Ren Zhengfei’s daughter — was arrested in Canada for extradition to the United States, in relation to an investigation of whether the company violated U.S. sanctions against Iran. The same trade rules led to a U.S. export ban against ZTE last year and resulted in ZTE temporarily shutting down its operations before a reaching an agreement on fines, leadership changes and monitoring that satisfied U.S. officials of the company’s future compliance.

Ren, asked during the press conference to comment on that situation, declined, citing the ongoing status of the legal case.

While Huawei is expecting to report record revenues for 2018, Ren warned that its growth might be impacted in 2019 and it could turn in growth of less than 20%. However, he added that due to Huawei’s investments in research and development, that “what has happened to ZTE will not happen to Huawei.”

But Huawei is facing some export-related challenges when it comes to its R&D in the U.S. According to published reports, the U.S. Department of Commerce recently blocked a shipment of telecom equipment and software, developed by Huawei’s Silicon Valley-based Futurewei, from being sent to China. The Wall Street Journal has reported that the Commerce Department has indicated that it will not renew an Futurewei export license, in a continuation of the Trump administration’s increasing trade pressure on China and Chinese companies.

However, during Ren’s press conference, he praised President Donald Trump, calling him a “great president” and saying that his tax cut was “conducive for the development of industries in the United States.”

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