Trump comments upend U.S. approach to Huawei, trade talks

WASHINGTON — The United States and China have taken pains this week to emphasize that their trade talks are entirely separate from the U.S. case against a top Chinese technology executive. But with a few words, President Donald Trump obliterated the distinction.

Trump said Tuesday he’d wade into the case against Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecommunications giant Huawei, if it would help produce a trade agreement with China.

“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 told Reuters in an interview.

The comment suggests Meng could be a political pawn in negotiations and makes things more awkward for Canada, which arrested her on America’s behalf during a Dec. 1 layover at the Vancouver airport.

Responding to Trump’s comment, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday: “Regardless of what goes on in other countries, Canada is, and will always remain, a country of the rule of law.”

“Are we now saying: ‘You violated U.S. law but if you’re willing to buy more U.S. soybeans we can look the other way?’ ” asked Wendy Cutler, a former U.S. trade negotiator who is now vice-president at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

A Canadian court on Tuesday released Meng on bail, confining her to Vancouver and its suburbs while she awaits possible extradition to the United States. The U.S. accuses Huawei, the biggest global supplier of network gear for phone and internet companies, of using a Hong Kong shell company to do business with Iran in violation of U.S. sanctions.

In what appears to be retaliation against Canada for arresting Meng, Chinese authorities on Monday detained a former Canadian diplomat, Michael Kovrig, in Beijing.

“Trump’s comments were very unfortunate and probably did not reflect a great deal of thought,” said Roland Paris, a former foreign policy adviser to Trudeau. “We have a judicial process under way and it will take its course. … Canada is paying a significant price for doing the right thing by upholding the rule of law and discharging its treaty obligations. President Trump should be aware of that.”

A senior Canadian government official told reporters that China informed the Canadian government on Wednesday that Kovrig was in the custody of Beijing state security, but did not say why he was detained or where he was being held. Hours earlier, China’s foreign ministry denied any knowledge of the detention.

Canada has also asked China for extra security at its embassy because of protests and anti-Canadian sentiment and has advised foreign service staff to “be prudent” and take precautions, another official said.

Meng’s arrest came the same day that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed over dinner in Buenos Aires to a 90-day cease-fire in a trade war that has shaken global financial markets and raised worries about the impact on the world economy.

The truce was meant to buy time for more substantive talks over U.S. allegations that China steals U.S. technology and forces American companies to hand over trade secrets in exchange for access to the Chinese market.

U.S. officials have insisted the sanctions case against Meng had nothing to do with the ongoing trade talks. Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told “Fox News Sunday” that “there’s a trade lane … and there is the law enforcement lane. They are different.”

Still, there is precedent for Trump intervening on behalf of a Chinese company accused of violating U.S. sanctions.

Trump drew fire from Capitol Hill in June when he reached a deal that spared another Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE, from U.S. sanctions that probably would have put it out of business after it was accused of selling equipment to Iran and North Korea. U.S. regulators planned to bar it from receiving U.S. components that it depended on, effectively a corporate death sentence.

But Trump issued a reprieve, perhaps partly because U.S. tech companies, major suppliers to ZTE, would also have been scorched. ZTE agreed to pay a $1 billion fine, change its board and management, and let American regulators monitor its operations.

Speaking outside the White House Wednesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross urged reporters not to jump to the conclusion that Trump will actually intervene in Meng’s case.

“Let’s see what he actually decides,” Ross said. “Let’s see where we go from there.”

Philip Levy, senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and an economic adviser in President George W. Bush’s White House, noted that “there’s a real value to keeping these things separate.”

“Do we want China to seize an (American) executive when they want to get a concession on trade talks in the future?” he asked.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Retired city manager Craig Curtis will argue for keeping the Molly Banister Drive right-of-way at Tuesday's public hearing. He warns of future gridlock if the extension is removed by city council. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
Former Red Deer city manager warns killing the Molly Banister Drive extension is ‘a terrible mistake’

Craig Curtis will argue for keeping the road alignment at next week’s public hearing

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

A Red Deer County man was arrested for drug possession by Innisfail RCMP on April 19. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Property crime and drugs top Red Deer RCMP priorities in new plan

2020-2022 Policing Priorities Plan going to city council on Monday

RCMP estimate about 500 people gathered on the weekend near Garrington Bridge along the Red Deer River, in a July 28, 2020 story. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Second person charged for alleged assault at anti-racism rally in Red Deer

A second person is facing charges following an alleged assault during an… Continue reading

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees vice-president Bonnie Gustola criticized provincial government layoffs at a rally that drew more than 80 people at City Hall Park on Friday.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
More than 80 rally in Red Deer against government health, education cutbacks

Rally at City Hall Park organized by the Council for Canadians

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

kk
Don’t try to teach a turtle tricks

I got Smokey at Woolworths. Woolworths was an awesome department store downtown,… Continue reading

New voluntary measures, including the encouragement of more mask wearing, have been introduced in the Edmonton health zone. “Red Deer has been very fortunate to have relatively low case numbers . . . relative to the rest of the province and the country,” says Mayor Tara Veer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
POLL: Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Should Alberta have stricter rules to help prevent the spread of COVID-19?… Continue reading

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler throws against the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning in Game 3 of the baseball World Series Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Buehler leads Dodgers over Rays 6-2 for 2-1 Series lead

Buehler leads Dodgers over Rays 6-2 for 2-1 Series lead

Inter Miami defender Ben Sweat, left, and Montreal Impact attacker Maximiliano Urruti fight for the ball during their MLS soccer match, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2020, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
Rested Montreal Impact looking to collect points with big finish to regular season

Rested Montreal Impact looking to collect points with big finish to regular season

Mariah Bell of the United States, competes during women's short program in the International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Nathan Chen dominates again in Skate America short program

Nathan Chen dominates again in Skate America short program

Lanto Griffin putts on the ninth hole during the second round of the Zozo Championship golf tournament Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Thousand Oaks, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Thomas has a fast start for a 65 and a 1-shot lead at Zozo

Thomas has a fast start for a 65 and a 1-shot lead at Zozo

Mariah Bell of the United States, competes during women's short program in the International Skating Union Grand Prix of Figure Skating Series, Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
Bell, Tennell go 1-2 in Skate America short program

Bell, Tennell go 1-2 in Skate America short program

Most Read