President Donald Trump's extraordinary decision Monday to block Singapore-based Broadcom from pursuing a hostile takeover of San Diego-based Qualcomm because he sees the deal as a threat to U.S. national security will be cheered by the Qualcomm executives who opposed the bid and welcomed by the 13,000 local Qualcomm workers whose jobs may have been in jeopardy with a new owner. Yet while Qualcomm's health is vital for San Diego's image and economy, big questions remain.
The president based his decision on "credible evidence" without an immediate explanation. It's defensible if his decision was based on a reasonable suspicion Qualcomm's trailblazing research into 5G wireless technology might be transferred to Chinese tech companies that Broadcom has relationships with. It's also defensible if it was based on concerns that Broadcom was not fully cooperating with an investigation into the deal by federal regulators, as a U.S. Treasury Department letter suggests.
But if the decision was prompted by Trump's deep skepticism about international trade and Fortress America instincts, that is less defensible and could haunt U.S. companies in their international dealings. As the State Department website notes, the United States and Singapore have long enjoyed "an expansive and enduring relationship based on mutual economic interests, robust security and defense cooperation." When the president comes to San Diego on Tuesday, an explanation of his decision is needed -- not just by residents but by nations that see themselves as U.S. allies.
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