General Electric, in response to media reports on Saturday about the administration’s review of its export license, said in a statement that it would comply with any requirements imposed by the United States but downplayed concerns about the risks of sales to China.
“We aggressively protect and defend our intellectual property and work closely with the U.S. government to fulfill our responsibilities and shared security and economic interests,” General Electric said in a statement. “G.E. has provided products and services in the global marketplace for decades.”
Geng Shuang, spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, criticized the U.S. proposal to halt the jet engine deliveries during a news conference on Tuesday.
“It would expose certain US officials’ ignorance in science and technology, disregard of the market principle, and anxiety with China’s development,” he said during a briefing. “It will be another example of the US using political means to undermine bilateral commercial cooperation and wantonly oppress China.”
Mr. Trump’s description of national security as an “excuse” for interfering in international commerce is surprising given the president’s decision to routinely link economic and national security. The president has cited the need to protect national security in his decision to impose tariffs on foreign metals and to consider placing them on foreign autos. The U.S. has also cited national security in expanding its ability to block international mergers and acquisitions.
The shift in position is also notable given the administration’s ongoing efforts to crack down on Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant that is on a government blacklist. Administration officials were expected to further restrict American sales to Huawei by closing a loophole that has allowed American sales to continue. While the Pentagon initially opposed the effort, fearing it could hurt defense suppliers, it has now reversed its position amid pressure from other administration officials.
John Neuffer, president and chief executive of the Semiconductor Industry Association, welcomed the administration’s shift in tone.
“We applaud President Trump’s tweets supporting U.S. companies being able to sell products to China and opposing proposed regulations that would unduly curtail that ability,” he said in a statement. “As we have discussed with the administration, sales of nonsensitive, commercial products to China drive semiconductor research and innovation, which is critical to America’s economic strength and national security.”
Julian Barnes and David McCabe contributed reporting.