Microsoft said it has been granted a license to sell software to Huawei, the latest development in the complicated relationship between the tech industry and the Chinese telecommunications giant that has become a key figure in trade wars.
The U.S. Department of Commerce this week approved Microsoft’s request to “export mass-market software to Huawei,” the company said in a statement to Reuters. Microsoft did not say what it means by mass-market software, but The Verge notes that Microsoft sells Windows and Office licenses to Huawei.
Microsoft was one of several tech giants forced to comply with the Trump administration’s ban on selling technology to Huawei. However, the extension of a temporary reprieve this week opens the door for some companies, primarily those that rely on the Chinese tech giant’s equipment to provide wireless Internet and phone service for rural customers in the U.S., to continue working with Huawei.
In September, Microsoft President Brad Smith publicly called for more evidence behind the Trump administration’s reasoning for cutting off Huawei from U.S. technology. Smith told Bloomberg Businessweek that the company asked regulators to explain why the administration decided to put Huawei on an “entity list” earlier this year.
A few weeks later, a group of Republican Senators said Huawei presents a “real and urgent” security threat in a letter to Smith. The senators listed eight public examples as evidence of the threat Huawei poses, including its alleged theft of designs and parts of T-Mobile’s top secret cell phone testing robot, nicknamed “Tappy.”
The Trump administration has gone back and forth on Huawei, which has become a central part of trade wars between the U.S. and China. The reprieve comes as the two countries are trying to mend their relationship. A bipartisan group of 15 U.S. senators expressed opposition to the administration’s plan to grant licenses to companies to sell technology to Huawei this week, citing national security concerns.
UPDATE: Friday morning, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted to block telecommunications companies from using federal funds to buy Huawei equipment.