Sec. of Commerce Ross: ZTE, Huawei extensions were made to help rural America

The Commerce Department granted special licenses to American companies to sell to Huawei

The Trump administration's 90-day extension of a license that allows U.S. companies to continue doing business with China’s ZTE and Huawei Technologies was designed to help rural America, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told FOX Business' Lou Dobbs.

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"The beneficiaries of the general licenses are mostly for our rural telecoms, here in the U.S., who unfortunately over the years loaded up on [Huawei's] equipment," Ross said Tuesday.

The extension, which was set to expire Tuesday, allows American companies to sell to Huawei for the next 90 days. Ross has said 130 applications from companies are in the process of being reviewed to sell to Huawei without the Temporary General License. The announcement was made Monday despite previously being "blacklisted".

On Wednesday, the department officially confirmed the specifics in a statement to FOX Business.

“Today, the Department of Commerce and the Bureau of Industry and Security, along with their interagency partners, announced they would grant several licenses -- and intent to deny others -- to persons or organizations to sell or transfer goods subject to the Export Administration Regulations to Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd and its non-U.S. affiliates which are currently on the Bureau’s Entity List. The Department is issuing these narrow licenses to authorize limited and specific activities which do not pose a significant risk to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. These applications were approved through an interagency license review process which is composed of officials from the Department of Commerce, along with the Department of Defense, State Department, and Department of Energy. Huawei and its affiliates will remain on the Entity List, and the Temporary General License – renewed recently for 90 days and maintaining narrow exemptions from the Entity List’s restrictions – will continue to be in effect.”

IS HUAWEI A GROWING THREAT?

About a dozen small rural carriers have bought equipment over the years from Huawei or ZTE, according to the trade group, the Rural Wireless Association.

Ross said there are two bills pending in Congress to finance the replacement of the 3G and 4G equipment. One bill calls for $700 million, one calls for a billion.

"I hope those bills go through very, very quickly," Ross said.

The former bill is a Senate proposal, the latter from the House of Representatives. Both would authorize grants to remove Huawei and ZTE equipment, in order to boost the security of the U.S. telecommunication network’s supply chain.

In May, the Trump administration signed an executive order that banned all U.S. companies from using Huawei equipment over security concerns.

When Dobbs noted there were two previous extensions, Ross said, "you can't cut the rural people" from their mobile telephone services.

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*The story was updated to include the 11-20-19 statement from the Commerce Department.