White House, Trudeau seek to distance themselves from Huawei move
WASHINGTON – Reuters
President Donald Trump did not know about plans to arrest a top executive at Chinese telecoms giant Huawei in Canada, two U.S. officials said on Dec. 6, in an apparent attempt to stop the incident from impeding crucial trade talks with Beijing.
Huawei Technologies Co Ltd’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, the 46-year-old daughter of the company’s founder, was detained in Canada on Dec. 1, the same day Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping dined together at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
A White House official told Reuters Trump did not know about a U.S. request for her extradition from Canada before he met Xi and agreed to a 90-day truce in the brewing trade war.
Meng’s arrest during a stopover in Vancouver, announced by the Canadian authorities on Dec. 5, pummeled stock markets already nervous about tensions between the world’s two largest economies on fears the move could derail the planned trade talks.
The arrest was made at Washington’s request as part of a U.S. investigation of an alleged scheme to use the global banking system to evade U.S. sanctions against Iran, according to people familiar with the probe.
Another U.S. official told Reuters that while it was a Justice Department matter and not orchestrated in advance by the White House, the case could send a message that Washington is serious about what it sees as Beijing’s violations of international trade norms.
The official acknowledged that the arrest could complicate efforts to reach a broader U.S.-China trade deal but would not necessarily damage the process.
The U.S. has been looking since at least 2016 into whether Huawei violated U.S. sanctions against Iran, Reuters reported in April.
More recently, the probe has included the company’s use of HSBC Holdings Plc to make illegal transactions involving Iran, people familiar with the investigation said.
Meng’s detention also raised concerns about potential retaliation from Beijing in Canada, where Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought to distance himself from the arrest.
“The appropriate authorities took the decisions in this case without any political involvement or interference ... we were advised by them with a few days’ notice that this was in the works,” Trudeau told reporters in Montreal in televised remarks.
Meanwhile, Japan plans to ban government purchases of equipment from Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp to beef up its defenses against intelligence leaks and cyber-attacks, sources told Reuters.
Chinese tech companies are under intense scrutiny from Washington and some prominent allies over ties to the Chinese government, driven by concerns they could be used by Beijing for spying.
China’s Foreign Ministry said on Dec. 7 that it was seriously concerned over reports that Japan plans to ban Huawei Technologies and ZTE from government contracts.