Robert Lighthizer, US trade representative, says Huawei case ‘totally separate’ from US-China talks

  • Lighthizer calls case a ‘criminal justice matter’ that should not impact negotiations
  • He understands how from ‘the Chinese perspective’ the high-profile arrest could have a negative impact
PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 December, 2018, 2:05am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 December, 2018, 8:46pm

This story is published in a content partnership with POLITICO. It was originally reported by Sabrina Rodriguez on on December 9, 2018.

US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Sunday that US-China negotiations should not be impacted by the controversial arrest of a top executive from Chinese telecom giant Huawei.

“This is a criminal justice matter. It is totally separate from anything I work on or anything that trade policy people in the administration work on,” Lighthizer said on CBS’ Face the Nation.

Lighthizer’s comments come as China’s Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned US Ambassador to China Terry Branstad on Sunday in protest over the arrest of Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei. Le urged the United States to drop the arrest warrant and cautioned that China “will respond further” depending on the US response.

Markets took a hit on Thursday following the news that the executive was detained in Vancouver and would be extradited to the US She stands accused of violating American trade sanctions against Iran.

The arrest cast doubt over whether the US and China would be able to make progress toward reaching an agreement. Both sides agreed to a 90-day temporary truce last week while they work through the trade dispute that has threatened both economies for the past eight months.

China summons US envoy to protest ‘extremely nasty’ arrest of Huawei executive

Top advisers in US President Donald Trump’s circle, including White House trade adviser Peter Navarro and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, have also sought to play down the negative impact the high-profile arrest could have on the negotiations.

However, Lighthizer acknowledged that he “can understand from the Chinese perspective how they would see it that way”.

Lighthizer, Trump’s top trade negotiator, outlined that the Trump administration expects China to agree to structural changes that will protect US technology and get additional market access for American businesses.

“If that can be done, the president wants us to do it. If not, we’ll have tariffs,” he said.