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Huawei crackdown

Huawei CEO toys with idea of Trump visiting him in China

Ren Zhengfei brushes off trade deal talk, saying company has 'zero' US business

Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei speaks at a panel discussion in Shenzhen on Nov. 6. (Photo by Yusuke Hinata)

TAIPEI -- Huawei Technologies founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei on Wednesday suggested U.S. President Donald Trump meet him in China, striking a bullish tone in the face of American pressure on the Chinese group's global expansion.

"Maybe President Trump should come here. I don't have an airplane to fly to the U.S.," Ren said at a panel discussion Wednesday at Huawei headquarters in the Chinese city of Shenzhen.

"The only airplanes I can afford are made of paper, so they would crash if it rains," the chief executive added.

Ren's remarks come as the U.S. and China finalize a so-called phase one trade agreement meant to ease tensions between the world's two biggest economies. Trump is pushing to sign the deal on American soil.

But Ren, who leads the world's biggest telecom equipment maker and No. 2 smartphone producer, said he cares nothing about progress in the Washington-Beijing trade talks, as his company currently has "zero business" in the U.S.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said Huawei will not be part of this phase of the trade deal, but that his department soon will grant licenses allowing certain U.S. companies to resume some shipments to Huawei. The Chinese company was placed on the Commerce Department's Entity List, which restricts its uses of American technology.

When the U.S. cut off Huawei's access to advanced American technology, the move actually generated opportunities for companies elsewhere to replace U.S. suppliers in the industry, Ren said. Japan, Germany and other countries should grab the opportunity to make money if U.S. companies cannot do so, he said.

"Other countries should work hard to become the alternatives [to American suppliers]," Ren said. "Why are these countries still observing? People should take action!"

Huawei has shown some resilience amid the U.S. blacklisting. Ren said his company would produce 240 million to 250 million smartphones this year -- growth of more than 21% from 2018 -- and remain the world's No. 2 phone maker.

But he acknowledged that Huawei's overseas smartphone sales were hurt because its new flagship models such as the latest Mate 30 range could not install Google Mobile Services due to the American sanctions.

Huawei has seen massive support domestically, as the company secured a 42% market share in China during the July-September period. The country even pushed forward the launch of its next generation of fifth-generation wireless networks this month to help Huawei's introduction of 5G phones.

"The worst has passed," Ren said. "I think next year we could also do at least around 250 million units of [smartphones] like this year. By next year this time, if we could still sit here and talk ... that would be the living proof that we have really survived these sanctions."

Meanwhile, Ren dismissed the U.S. accusations that Huawei's equipment carries security and espionage concerns.

"Information security is a relative term, not an absolute term," Ren said, addressing the question of whether Huawei's equipment allows back-door access that the company or the Chinese government could exploit. Huawei strictly follows government regulations worldwide and makes a commitment to countries to protect information security, he said.

Huawei is just an equipment provider, and does not own data, Ren said.

"If a car is flipped over, you can't always blame the carmaker," Ren said. "It is the telecom operators who operate and manage data. We, as an equipment vendor, are just like the carmakers."

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