Monday 23 September 2019

Huawei unsure if US ban will hit Irish R&D plans

Chinese tech giant does not know if €70m Irish research facilities will be next on Donald Trump's trade blacklist

Huawei says a €70m investment in its Irish operations will go ahead, despite uncertainty over whether US trade authorities will place the tech giant's Irish facilities on a banned list. Stock photo: AFP/Getty Images
Huawei says a €70m investment in its Irish operations will go ahead, despite uncertainty over whether US trade authorities will place the tech giant's Irish facilities on a banned list. Stock photo: AFP/Getty Images
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Huawei says a €70m investment in its Irish operations will go ahead, despite uncertainty over whether US trade authorities will place the tech giant's Irish facilities on a banned list.

The Chinese company, which is the world's second-biggest smartphone manufacturer and the largest 5G network firm, is waiting to see whether its Irish research centres will be added to a growing list of global entities banned by the US.

Huawei employs close to 500 people across facilities in Dublin, Cork and Athlone. This week, it announced it was scaling up its presence here with a €70m injection of funds.

However, the company's research facilities worldwide are being targeted by US authorities as China's trade war with the US escalates.

Forty-six research and innovation centres in Europe and elsewhere were newly blacklisted by the US Commerce Department, bringing to 100 the total number of banned Huawei facilities entities around the world.

The trading barriers mean that US companies are not allowed to trade with Huawei's research facilities, which include centres in the UK, Italy and elsewhere in the EU.

However, a spokesman for Huawei said that the company is unaware of whether US authorities plan to extend their ban to Huawei's Irish activities.

"The Irish facilities aren't currently on that list," he said.

Huawei's research in Ireland includes artificial intelligence, video and cloud computing.

The US Huawei ban has threatened the firm's future smartphone business as it uses Google's Android as their phones' operating system.

Huawei's troubles with US trade and security authorities have escalated in parallel with the intensifying Sino-US trade war.

American officials have accused Huawei's technology, including its 5G networks, of being a potential backdoor to surveillance from Beijing. Huawei has denied the charge, arguing that the ban is a tactical measure in America's trade dispute with China. EU countries have not banned Huawei networks after security audits.

Last week, the trade war between the US and China intensified with China saying it would add tariff duties of $75bn on US goods. US President Donald Trump responded, saying he would impose new tariffs of $550bn on Chinese imports.

In May, President Trump placed Huawei on an 'entity list', banning US firms from doing business with the company. However, Huawei was granted a 90-day grace period, which this month was extended to 180 days.

Three weeks ago Huawei announced a new software operating system, Harmony, to reduce its dependence on Google's Android for its phones.

As well as its own scientists and engineers here, Huawei has deepening arrangements with most Irish universities, including Trinity College, Dublin City University, University of Limerick, University College Dublin and University College Cork. The company also has agreements in place with Science Foundation Ireland centres such as Connect, Insight, Adapt and Lero.

"The company's Dublin R&D office is part of Huawei's European Research Institute and forms part of Huawei's research ecosystem," a company statement said.

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