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Intel CEO Bob Swan: Huawei is an 'important customer’ but Intel has to abide by the law

A flashpoint in the U.S.-China trade war, Chinese tech company Huawei is a security threat to some and an innocent bystander to others. For Intel (INTC) CEO Bob Swan, it’s first and foremost a major customer.

In an interview last month, Swan acknowledged that Huawei — which has been banned from buying U.S. technology — is an “important customer” but stressed that Intel must abide by the “rules of the road.”

“Currently the U.S. export-control laws impede our ability to do some things, and we have to abide by that. So it has impacts on us,” said Swan, whose company has sold chips to Huawei.

Later, he added, “Most importantly for us as a company and as an industry, the semiconductor industry, we believe strongly in open global and fair trade and we advocate for that the best we can along the way.”

On Monday, President Donald Trump met with seven tech CEOs, including Swan, to discuss national security issues including concerns over the use of Huawei’s equipment. Huawei is one of the world’s biggest smartphone makers and also makes infrastructure equipment for the internet.

Intel CEO Bob Swan appears on Influencers with Andy Serwer.
Intel CEO Bob Swan appears on Influencers with Andy Serwer.

Swan made the comments to Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer in a conversation that aired on Yahoo Finance in an episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.

Huawei, having worked with major firms like Intel and Google (GOOG, GOOGL), has faced heightened scrutiny as the trade war between the U.S. and China has intensified. Some U.S. officials and others suspect that Huawei products contain back doors that could enable Chinese espionage. But Huawei officials have denied allegations, claiming to have never have received orders from the Chinese government to create back doors and stressing that they wouldn't oblige even if asked.

In May, the White House added Huawei to the so-called entity list, effectively banning U.S. companies from doing business with it. Then in late June, after Yahoo Finance’s interview with Swan, several news reports emerged that Intel and other industry leaders had found ways to sidestep the ban and continue selling to Huawei. In early July, Trump said he was relaxing the ban.

On Thursday, Intel reported second-quarter earnings and beat analysts’ expectations on both the top and bottom line. Intel also said it had agreed to sell much of its smartphone modem business to Apple (AAPL) for $1 billion.

Donovan Russo is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him @Donovanxrusso.

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