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Google pulls Huawei’s Android licence days after US govt put it on trade blacklist

In a huge blow to the Chinese company, Google has cut off Huawei’s Android licence, Reuters reports. The development comes just days after the US government added Huawei to a trade blacklist, preventing it from buying components from US companies without prior government approval. Google’s decision means Huawei will only be able to use the public version of Android, known as the Android Open Source Project. It won’t be able to use Google’s proprietary apps and services such as the Play Store, Gmail and YouTube, which are not covered by the open source license and require a commercial agreement with Google. Chipmakers including Intel Corp., Qualcomm Inc., Xilinx Inc. and Broadcom Inc. have told their employees they will not supply Huawei till further notice, per Bloomberg. People who already own Huawei smartphones with Google apps will continue to be able to download app updates provided by Google. A Google spokesperson told MediaNama, “We are complying with the (government’s) order and reviewing the implications. For users of our services, Google Play and the security protections from Google Play Protect will continue to function on existing Huawei devices.” But future phones will lack these, potentially crippling Huawei’s phone business outside China. Huawei has said it has spent years developing its own technology in case it is blocked from using Android, the report said.

Google’s decision comes days after the US government added Huawei and 70 affiliates to its ‘Entity List’, thereby preventing them from buying components from US companies without government approval. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced the decision last week and said the department had reasonable basis to believe Huawei was “engaged in activities that are contrary to US national security.” The decision would also make it “difficult if not impossible” for Huawei to sell products for which it relied on parts from US suppliers.

What is the ‘Entity List’?

The US Commerce Department website says its Entity List is part of its Export Administration Regulations (EAR) and comprises “certain foreign persons – including businesses, research institutions, government and private organisations, individuals, and other types of legal persons – that are subject to specific license requirements for the export, re-export and/or transfer (in-country) of specified items”. The list specifies the license requirements that it imposes on each listed person or organisation. It says that these parties “present a greater risk of diversion to weapons of mass destruction programs, terrorism, or other activities contrary to US national security and/or foreign policy interests”. The department’s Bureau of Industry and Security can add a foreign party to the Entity List for engaging in activities contrary to US national security and/or foreign policy interests. The website reads, “In most instances, license exceptions are unavailable for the export, reexport, or transfer (in-country) to a party on the Entity List of items subject to the EAR. Rather, prior license authorisation is required, usually subject to a policy of denial.”

In February 2018, the heads of six major US intelligence agencies had warned American citizens not to use products and services made by Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese company, per CNBC. A week before that, two senators had introduced legislation to block the US government from buying or leasing equipment from the two firms. One of the senators said Huawei was “effectively an arm of the Chinese government”. US scrutiny of Huawei dates back to October 2012, when a US Congressional report said the company – and ZTE – posed a national security risk.

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