Trump: 'I can imagine Huawei being included' in a US-China trade deal

Carlos Barria | Reuters
President Donald Trump speaks about a range of subjects including failed infrastructure talks with Democratic lawmakers during an event to disc

President Donald Trump left little doubt on Thursday that he is willing to negotiate tough U.S. restrictions on the Chinese telecom giant Huawei as part of a broader trade deal with Beijing, a position that could put the president at odds with members of his own administration.

"It's possible that Huawei would be included in a trade deal," Trump said during a freewheeling impromptu exchange with reporters at the White House on Thursday afternoon. "If we made a deal, I can imagine Huawei being included in some form or some part of a trade deal."

Trump's remark came just moments after he had said, "Huawei is something that is very dangerous. You look at what they have done from a security standpoint, from a military standpoint. It is very dangerous."

Asked by a reporter how such a negotiation over Huawei would look, Trump replied, it would "look very good for us."

"How would you design that?" the reporter asked.

"It's too early to say," Trump replied. "We're very concerned about Huawei from a security standpoint."

The president appeared to be delivering a mixed message about the Chinese broadband company: On the one hand, that Huawei was a threat to U.S. national security, and on the other hand, that the United States would be willing to consider easing some of its restrictions on the company in order to reach a broader trade deal with China.

Trump's remarks came as both global markets and major American industries grew increasingly concerned this week that the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China could do lasting damage to America's economy and to key sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing.

To wit, Trump's Huawei comments were made at an event focused on the announcement of a plan to use $16 billion in tariff revenues on aid to farmers impacted by the trade war with China. The plan had been released earlier in the day by the Department of Agriculture, however, and Trump veered off topic shortly after he began speaking Thursday.

The White House has for months taken an increasingly hard line against Huawei, and in May, Trump declared a national emergency that appeared to specifically target the company.

The move, done via executive order, authorized Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in consultation with other top officials, to block transactions that involve information or communications technology that "poses an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States."

Following the order, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the addition of Huawei Technologies and its affiliates to the Bureau of Industry and Security Entity List, making it more difficult for the Chinese telecom giant to conduct business with U.S. companies.

The addition meant that U.S. companies were prohibited from selling or transferring technology to Huawei without a license issued by the BIS. Huawei depends on some U.S. suppliers for parts.

This is a developing story, please check back for updates.

— CNBC's Tucker Higgins contributed to this report.

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