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US storage heavyweights face inquiry over fraternization with Huawei

Western Digital HDD
(Image credit: Western Digital HDD)

US-based storage companies Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba America Electronic Components (TAEC) have been asked to respond to a series of questions relating to an inquiry into the potential supply of hard drives to Huawei.

Launched in March, the investigation is being conducted by the US Department of Commerce and originally focused on whether Seagate in particular had provided the blacklisted Chinese firm with HDDs.

A letter authored by Senator Roger Wicker, a member of the US Commerce Committee, has now been delivered to the three storage heavyweights, containing questions (included in full below) about their interpretation of trade regulations, shipping licenses and relationship with Huawei.

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Huawei trade restrictions

Huawei was first blacklisted by the US in May 2019, requiring US-based companies to halt certain trading activities with the Chinese firm.

Namely, the US Department of Commerce stated the company should not be able to get hold of  “chips developed or produced from US software or technology to the same degree as comparable US chips”.

An amendment that came into effect in July 2019 made it possible for companies to supply Huawei and its affiliates, but only after applying for and receiving a special license.

A spokesperson for Western Digital told The Register the firm has applied for the necessary license, but is still awaiting approval.

“We stopped shipping to Huawei in mid-September 202 to comply with new rules issued by the Department of Commerce,” the spokesperson explained. “We requested a license to ship products to Huawei in September 2020.”

Seagate is thought not to have applied for special dispensation, while TAEC has provided no indication of its intentions in this regard.

The questions in full

  1. Does your company believe that the Final Rule prohibits shipment of hard disk drives to Huawei or any affiliate without a license? Please explain.
  2. Has your company continued shipping hard disk drives that are the direct products of technology or software subject to the EAR in question to Huawei or any affiliate after September 14, 2020? If yes, please explain.
  3. Has your company submitted a licensure application to ship covered products to Huawei or any affiliate after September 14, 2020? If yes, please also explain the status of your application.
  4. Does your company incorporate semiconductor products into its hard disk drives that the supplier knows or should know would then be incorporated into hard disk drives for subsequent shipment to Huawei or any affiliate?

Via The Register