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Huawei USA security chief calls for Biden to ease sanctions: We’ve been significantly hurt

Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei called for direct dialogue with the Biden administration Thursday, as it looks to turn around dwindling sales depressed by U.S. sanctions on the company.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance Live, Huawei USA’s Chief Security Officer Andy Purdy expressed optimism that President Joe Biden will ease export controls on Huawei “in the best interest of the United States.”

“We're hoping that the Biden administration rather than bundling all the various issues together and using them for geopolitical negotiation with China, will look at individuals separately, such as the ability of American companies to sell to Huawei, at least $12 billion a year, which is about 40,000 jobs,” Purdy said.

Huawei has seen revenue growth slow sharply since the U.S. Department of Commerce placed the firm on a trade blacklist in 2019 on national security concerns, banning it from buying American components. The Trump administration doubled down on export controls last year, barring Huawei and its suppliers from using American technology and software.

The company’s consumer business group, which includes its smartphones, has taken the biggest hit, with shipments falling nearly 43% in the last quarter, according to research from IDC. While competitors Samsung Electronics, Apple, and Xiaomi all gained market share, Huawei fell to fifth place, behind its two biggest Chinese rivals.

Declines stemming from U.S. export controls prompted the company to sell its low-end Honor devices arm last year, but Purdy disputed reports that the company was considering parting with its smartphone making business altogether.

“We've been hurt very significantly in terms of the mobile devices, but we're taking a very long term approach, and it's helping us prioritize which products are most important,” Purdy said. “We are committed to this space. And even if we take a hit for a few more years, we are going to be in this space.”

Andy Purdy, chief security officer at Huawei Technologies USA, is interviewed on
Andy Purdy, chief security officer at Huawei Technologies USA, is interviewed on "Maria Bartiromo's Wall Street" program on the Fox Business Network, in New York, Thursday, June 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

So far, the Biden administration has given no indication it plans to take a softer approach on Huawei. During her Senate confirmation hearing, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said she would “review the policy” on the company, but also added that she had “no reason to believe that entities on those lists should not be there.”

“I would use the full toolkit at my disposal to the fullest extent possible to protect Americans and our network from Chinese interference or any kind of back-door influence,” Raimondo said.

'Doing the best we can'

Purdy said Huawei has not reached out to the administration so far. It plans to make the case that the company can help the U.S. address key risks including supply chain vulnerabilities and cybersecurity.

“Before the administration can even decide that for the benefit of American workers, they're going to allow companies to sell to us, I think we're gonna see a number of actions like we've seen recently such as the executive order President Biden issued to help promote the semiconductor industry to help promote a more stable supply chain,” Purdy said. “As the United States raises the bar, I think we'll see the approach that this administration takes for multilateralism working closely with allies.”

Even as the company holds out hope for a thawing of relations with the U.S., it is looking for ways to generate additional profit and simplify product lines. Founder Ren Zhengfei reportedly called on employees to sharpen their focus and “dare to abandon some countries, some customers, some products and some scenarios,” according to Chinese media outlet Caixin, and the South China Morning Post.

The company is also in talks to make electric vehicles under its own brand, with a launch scheduled for as early as this year, according to Reuters.

"We're doing the best we can," Purdy said. "In the end, we're going to succeed but it's, it's a very difficult process and we don't know the milestones for the future and how we're going to fare.”

Akiko Fujita is an anchor and reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AkikoFujita