Trump committed to Asia, says USA commerce secretary Ross

Wednesday, 06 Nov, 2019

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross insisted Monday that his nation remained "extremely engaged" with Asia regardless of Donald Trump skipping a regional leaders summit.

Ross and Trump's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, were the senior US officials attending the meetings at the summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Ross said there had been 260 requests for companies to do business with Huawei. "That's a lot of applications - it's frankly more than we would've thought", he said. Huawei maintains that there is no cyber security issue and despite this pressure from the US government, they are able to maintain their good performance from the previous years. Trump said in June after meeting with Xi in Japan that he'd "easily" agreed to allow American firms to continue certain exports to Huawei, and weeks later Trump said he'd accelerate the approval process for licences.

American companies are now banned from selling their products to the Chinese company after it was blacklisted on national security grounds earlier this year. The Trump administration had been considering whether to add Hikvision to its Entity List since May, but did not make an official decision until last month.

The U.S. reaction has been predictable.

Trump was absent from the ASEAN summit and instead sent a lower-ranking delegation, including Ross and National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien on his behalf. Even so, it is known that Google is one of the firms that were particularly impacted by the trade ban.

"We're hopeful that phase one will be the precursor of a much more robust set of agreements", Ross said in a phone call with reporters on Tuesday morning. Other companies, like ARM Holdings, have found ways around the ban, declaring that the technology used in their ARM processor designs and IP originated in the United Kingdom, not the US.

It's unclear exactly what sort of investment commitments would come of the initiative, described by the US government as an alliance of governments including Australia and Japan, companies and civil society "under shared standards" that would provide a "globally recognized seal of approval".

Whether that would ease the larger US-China strategic rivalry is another issue.