WASHINGTON -- The U.S. and China are moving closer to their first face-to-face trade negotiations in months, with a meeting between tech chief executives and President Donald Trump on Monday marking another step toward easing a ban on sales to China's Huawei Technologies Co.
The White House invited many of the United States' biggest technology companies to discuss economic issues including a possible resumption of sales to Huawei. Trump and senior administration officials met with CEOs from Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Broadcom Inc., Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Micron Technology Inc., Western Digital Corp. and Qualcomm Inc., according to White House spokesman Judd Deere.
"The CEOs expressed strong support of the president's policies, including national security restrictions on United States telecom equipment purchases and sales to Huawei," Deere said. "They requested timely licensing decisions from the Department of Commerce, and the president agreed."
The meeting between government officials and U.S. technology leaders may assuage Chinese concern that one of its largest technology companies is under existential threat from a blacklisting. But lawmakers and others in the administration who oppose any relief for Huawei could stymie any tentative progress in resolving a trade dispute between the world's two largest economies.
Chinese state media on Monday hailed signs of progress on Huawei as part of what it called efforts to display "sincerity and goodwill'' by both sides. Any easing of restrictions on Huawei is expected to be met with a resumption of Chinese purchases of U.S. soybeans and other agricultural commodities.
The moves, which followed a meeting between Trump and China's Xi Jinping in Japan late last month, are meant to clear the way for a trip to China by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin as soon as next week.
Such a trip would mark the first high-level negotiating mission to China since talks broke down in May.
National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow and Mnuchin led the meeting, which also included Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Lighthizer attended as well, according to people familiar with the gathering. It was called to inject a business perspective into a debate that has often been driven by an intelligence and national security community eager to see an outright ban on Huawei, one of the people said.
Xiaomeng Lu, international policy manager and head of the China practice at Access Partnership, said the meeting is an opportunity for U.S. companies to demonstrate how resuming sales to Huawei's consumer business can help American corporations innovate better and outperform the Chinese telecoms giant in the long run.
Trump will very likely face backlash from Congress if he chooses to allow shipments to the Chinese telecom giant, especially after The Washington Post on Monday reported that the company helped build North Korea's 3G network in a potential violation of U.S. export control laws.