U.S. Department of Commerce eyes Huawei exports

Having slapped export restrictions on ZTE Corp. for allegedly sending restricted U.S. technology to Iran, the U.S. Department of Commerce appears to have turned its attention to fellow Chinese telecommunications equipment supplier Huawei. The New York Times reports that investigators have subpoenaed Huawei in search of information on U.S. technology the Chinese company – or any shell companies – may have exported to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.

Having slapped export restrictions on ZTE Corp. for allegedly sending restricted U.S. technology to Iran, the U.S. Department of Commerce appears to have turned its attention to fellow Chinese telecommunications equipment supplier Huawei. The New York Times reports that investigators have subpoenaed Huawei in search of information on U.S. technology the Chinese company – or any shell companies – may have exported to Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.

According to the Times, the Commerce Department is not yet accusing Huawei of wrongdoing. The subpoena was an administrative subpoena that does not directly indicate a criminal investigation, according to the Times article.

The Department of Commerce helps enforce economic sanctions or other export restrictions that the U.S. Government imposes against countries. In the case of ZTE, an investigative arm of the Department asserted that ZTE had exported restricted U.S.-sourced communications technology to Iran in defiance of economic sanctions (see "ZTE faces export sanctions from US Department of Commerce"). The Department put ZTE on an export restrictions list, which effectively would have prevented ZTE from buying any components or other technologies from U.S. companies. The Department subsequently suspended these restrictions, which allowed ZTE to keep its U.S. technology pipelines flowing (see "ZTE receives temporary export restrictions reprieve").

As part of the case against ZTE, the Commerce Department released documents that showed ZTE acted on a model established by another company that the document did not name, the Times article states. However, that company bore similarities to Huawei, the article asserts.

The Huawei subpoena called for the company to testify last month to its export activities for the past five years or supply the requested information some other way by that time. The Times was not able to determine if Huawei met that deadline.

If Huawei is found to have sent restricted U.S. communications technology to any of the five countries, it could face export sanctions similar to those imposed on ZTE.

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