Trump Says He Could Weigh in on Huawei CFO Case
VANCOUVER, CANADA – December 12, 2018
President Trump said on Tuesday he would intervene with the Justice Department in the case against a Chinese telecommunications executive if it would help secure a trade deal with Beijing.
“If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” Trump said in a wide-ranging interview with Reuters in the Oval Office.
At the request of US authorities, Huawei Technologies executive Sabrina Meng Wanzhou was arrested earlier this month in Vancouver on charges of violating US sanctions against Iran.
Meng, 46, faces accusations of misleading multinational banks about Huawei’s control of a company operating in Iran, putting the banks at risk of violating US sanctions and incurring severe penalties, court documents said.
If extradited to the United States, Meng would face charges of conspiracy to defraud multiple financial institutions.
A Canadian court ordered on Tuesday that Meng wear a GPS ankle bracelet, submit to the 24-hour supervision of a private security firm, and surrender her two Hong Kong and Chinese passports. She will live in a Vancouver home she owns with husband Liu Xiaozong that is worth Canadian $5.6 million (US $4.2 million).
Justice William Ehrcke told Meng to return to court on February 6 to set a date for her extradition hearing. He commended all parties for their conduct in a “most unusual” case, which he said displayed Canada’s “independent judiciary” at its best.
Lawyer John Gibb-Carsley, representing the Attorney General of Canada on behalf of the United States, had strongly opposed Meng’s release, arguing that she had vast resources at her disposal that made her an unacceptable flight risk.
The arrest came the same day Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping declared a 90-day truce in their trade war during summit talks in Buenos Aires. Trump, who wants China to open up its markets to more American-made products and stop what Washington calls the theft of intellectual property, said he had not yet spoken to Xi about the case against Huawei’s executive.
Answering whether Meng could be released, Trump said:
“Well, it’s possible that a lot of different things could happen. It’s also possible it will be a part of negotiations. But we’ll speak to the Justice Department, we’ll speak to them, we’ll get a lot of people involved.”
Asked if he would like to see Meng extradited to the United States, Trump said he wanted to first see what the Chinese request.
He added, however, that Huawei’s alleged practices were troubling.
“This has been a big problem that we’ve had in so many different ways with so many companies from China and from other places,” he said.
At the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, President Trump and Chinese President XI Jinping agreed to suspend the trade war for 90 days. Chinese officials have begun preparing to restart imports of US soybeans and liquefied natural gas, the first sign confirming Trump’s claims and those of the White House that China had agreed to start buying some US products “immediately.”
“I just heard today that they’re buying tremendous amounts of soybeans. They are starting, just starting now,” Trump said.
Commodity traders in Chicago, however, said they have seen no evidence of a resumption of soybean purchases by China, which last year bought about 60% of US soybean exports in deals valued at more than $12 billion.
At the same time, many experts, including Chinese, believe that the contradictions between Beijing are systemic and in the near future will only increase.
“It’s not a matter whether there will be a fight between the two countries, but how they will fight,” said Lian Ping, chief economist of the Bank of Communications (BOCOM), the country’s fifth largest lender.
“No matter if [relations] are tense or not, their struggles will continue over the long run.”
Lian is one of a growing number of voices in Chinese academia and Beijing policymaking circles saying that there is a fundamental competition between the two powers in a wide range of sectors.
The arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Deputy General Director and at the same time financial Director of Huawei Corporation, means that US leadership has finally moved to a means of solving international issues that is more typical of terrorist organizations than self-respecting civilized states.
As Chinese commentators rightly note, the situation around the company has already demonstrated with maximum clarity that in the case of a failure to defeat Chinese competitors by legal market methods, Western partners are ready to use non-market measures of influence. However, even the most pessimistic Chinese experts did not predict that the US would use hostage-taking as a means of competition.