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Tech Officials Diagnose Excessive Trump Actions as Product of ‘Huawei Derangement Syndrome’

David Jelke

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Photo of Kevin Wolf and fellow panelists by David Jelke

WASHINGTON, February 18, 2020 – Technology industry officials unloaded on what they regard as the Trump administration’s excessive measures against the Chinese company Huawei, officials said Tuesday at an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation panel on export controls.

“Unilateral actions end up hurting the very U.S. industry you are trying to protect,” said Kevin Wolf of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld.

Wolf said that export control law called for imposition upon items that are considered “essential” to national security. Wolf said that didn’t apply to Huawei gear.

The Trump administration has placed many controls on technological products that seem to have no bearing on national security, such as chips in smartphones, according to John Neuffer of SIA America.

According to Wolf, the administration has also yet to clarify the difference between “emerging” and “digital” technologies, as stated in the Export Control Reform Act passed in August 2018. The measure strengthened export controls in apparent response to the perceived threat from Chinese companies.

Robert Atkinson, president of ITIF and moderator of the panel, claimed that government officials are suffering from HDS, or “Huawei Derangement Syndrome.” Atkinson used this phrase to describe the heavy-handedness of the government in banning export of a broad array of products to China.

“As someone who used to see the intel,” chimed Wolf, who worked in intelligence prior to his current position, he is “quite sympathetic with the desire to do something” about Huawei.

That being said, the tools of export control can be “more harmful than helpful,” and he thinks this is the case now.

A humorous moment occurred when Wolf read out the following live tweets from President Trump:

In addition to garnering laughs, Wolf used the tweet to bolster his argument that the current administration has a capricious stance on Huawei. This ambiguity impairs the U.S.’s credibility and “discourage[s] nations that want to do business with the U.S.”

In response to a question about the U.S.’s efforts to prevent allied countries from adopting Huawei infrastructure, David Hanke of Arent Fox stated “if you attack the king you gotta kill the king, and it’s not clear to me that you can do that.”

The audience responded with nervous laughter.

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