President Donald Trump made a dramatic move Wednesday when he declared a national emergency and issued an executive order banning the import of technology products and services from US adversaries.
The action, which appeared to be targeted at China in general and at Chinese equipment maker Huawei in particular, seemed likely to ratchet up the trade tensions between the two countries. It also seemed likely to put further pressure on Huawei’s business and that of its partners. And because of how broadly the order was written, it could potentially be applied to a vast swath of goods and services, since so many technology products — even those that carry US brand names — are made in China.
It’s not clear exactly how the order will be implemented. But at least for now, it likely will have little effect on everyday consumers. So you shouldn’t worry about being barred from purchasing a Huawei phone — much less an iPhone — anytime soon.
What kinds of products will be barred from being imported into the US under the emergency order? Communications and technology equipment and services.
Which countries’ products are affected by the order? It’s unclear. The order doesn’t specify any particular nations. Instead, it applies to unnamed “foreign adversaries.” However, it’s widely assumed that the order is targeted at China.
Which companies’ products are covered by the order? Again, it’s unclear. The order doesn’t include a blacklist of specific corporations, but it’s written broadly enough to cover a wide range of them. It applies to any technology or communications product “designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied, by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of a foreign adversary” that poses a security risk to the United States.
“We’re all in the dark” about exactly how it will be implemented, said Steve Becker, a partner at the law firm Pillsbury who focuses on international trade law.
Who will determine which products are covered? Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross after conferring with a group of other administration officials, including the attorney general, the US trade representative, and the secretaries of State, Defense, Treasury, and Homeland Security.
What kinds of products are likely to be banned? While the order is broad, Ross is widely expected to apply it fairly narrowly to Huawei’s networking equipment. He’s unlikely to target consumer products and almost certainly won’t bar devices made in China on behalf of US companies, such as Apple’s iPhones or Dell computers, Becker said.
“Clearly, the main focus has been on backbone equipment — network switches and routers,” Becker said.
When will the order take effect? Nominally, the order takes effect immediately. But it could be five months or more before the regulations that will flesh it out will be in place. The president gave Ross 150 days to publish rules to carry out the order. But even if he meets that deadline, those rules will be subject to public comment or some delay before they carry the force of law.
Will consumers or companies have to hand over previous purchases of affected products? Generally, no. Trump’s order applies to products and services purchased on or after Wednesday and to purchases that were still pending at that time. It doesn’t apply to previous purchases.
Is this going to affect the rollout of 5G services in the United States? It’s unclear. Huawei is one of the leaders in equipment for 5G — or fifth generation — wireless networks. The big US carriers had already promised not to use Huawei equipment. But, assuming that Huawei is indeed the target of the order, it could bar smaller carriers from buying the company’s equipment. That could force them to pay higher prices, and they may delay rolling out their services as a result.
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