Trade dispute grinds on as Huawei prepares to cut ties to Google

via Flickr © Kevin Doncaster (CC BY 2.0)

via Flickr © Kevin Doncaster (CC BY 2.0)

  • The UK bogged in Brexit, frozen in the Huawei trade dispute headlights
  • US Commerce department returns Huawei’s kit
  • Huawei makes ready to find alternatives to Google’s software and preps its own smartphone OS

In the UK the vexed Huawei question is one of the - admittedly minor - things hanging over the UK government as it tries (or not) to exit the European Union. The current US administration would like the UK’s telcos to dump Huawei as their favoured telecoms infrastructure supplier. The UK telcos are many years into deep supplier relationships with Huawei and maintain that such a reversal would be catastrophic. The UK government is nervous about upsetting The Donald just as it needs a friend and a possible trade deal. 

The result is rabbits frozen in the headlights, all waiting nervously for Trump to end his Chinese trade kerfuffle and to declare himself the winner as it becomes clearer that the so-called ‘security’ objection was just a piece of trade leverage

But headlights or not, the unseemly mess continues. 

The latest news just in is that Huawei has dropped its lawsuit against the US government after equipment detained for two years was returned (says Huawei). 

Yes, Huawei had a suit lodged against the  US Commerce Department and several other US government agencies that it had filed back in June in response to the seizure of telecoms equipment by US officials in September 2017. 

The equipment has now been quietly returned and therefore Huawei has decided to drop its lawsuit but felt the need to highlight the case because, Huawei says, the US government action could reasonably be viewed as a tacit admission that the seizure itself was unlawful and arbitrary. 

The equipment included servers, Ethernet switches, and other telecommunications gear made by Huawei in China. It had been shipped for commercial testing and certification at a laboratory in California in September 2017, but the US Commerce Department, citing unidentified export violation concerns, seized it while it was in transit. 

Over the past two years the US government has failed to make a decision on whether an export license was required for the equipment to be shipped back to China, and continued to hold it, until now. 

Huawei is still waiting for an explanation, but seems unlikely to get one this side of a new trade agreement. 

Meanwhile, Huawei looks increasingly likely to produce a smartphone featuring its self-developed operating system, HarmonyOS, in spring next year, according to Yu Chengdong, head of Huawei's consumer business, talking to Chinese press at the IFA 2019 electronics expo in Berlin.

Yu said it could be introduced with Huawei’s flagship P40 smartphone due to be announced next March. Much like the UK’s access to Huawei's infrastructure technology, Huawei’s access to Android has remained in no-man’s land since the US Commerce Department put Huawei on a trade blacklist in May so that American suppliers were prevented from selling it parts or software. 

Huawei is poised to launch its Mate 30 smartphone sporting Android, which is open source, but not Google’s free services including Gmail. 

However, reports today suggest that, having bought the Mate 30, users may be able to download Google apps under their own steam. Yu told journalists that Huawei had been working with third party developers to find ways of giving Mate 30 users access to the open source versions of the key Google software. Not ideal, but one way forward at least.

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