Huawei’s Ticking Time Bomb
President Donald Trump’s attack on Huawei Technologies Co. is the trade war’s slowest-burning weapon.
It’s been a week since Trump triggered the device with an executive order, aimed at Huawei, banning national-security threats from selling equipment in the U.S., and with a Commerce Department blacklist keeping U.S. equipment makers from selling to Huawei. The implications for global industry keep unfolding.
U.S. stocks, which actually rose on the day of Trump’s order, fell today, apparently on news Trump has more Chinese firms in his sights. High on the list is Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co., the top maker of equipment for China’s national panopticon. Anjani Trivedi notes Hikvision has been implicated in the tracking and internment of Uighurs. If Trump is serious about cracking down on this mistreatment, Anjani writes, then many more companies, including big American ones, could be dragged into the war.
British telecom giants BT Group Plc and Vodafone Group Plc today said they wouldn’t sell Huawei 5G-enabled phones. This is surprising and devastating news for Huawei, Alex Webb notes, as it’s short of big foreign markets for its 5G equipment. Trump’s Huawei attack is scrambling tech plans and supply chains around the world, writes Mohamed El-Erian, which could devastate China’s economy unless it’s resolved quickly. Even then, Mohamed writes, global faith in Chinese products will be shaken.
China probably won’t go quietly, as
Xi Jinping’s call for “a new Long March” suggests. It could cause global supply-chain trouble of its own by hoarding rare earths and battery minerals, writes David Fickling. But any pain the Huawei fight causes Americans would be worth it, writes Eli Lake, because the company is such a threat to national security. Eli argues Trump should keep the Huawei ban in place even if there’s a trade deal.
The trouble is that Trump is himself a bit of a ticking time bomb. Hal Brands writes the Huawei threat will be more effective if allies join in, as BT and Vodafone did today. But Trump has alienated many allies, who also must consider the risk he’ll back down as he did with ZTE Corp. last year. Hal suggests that would further damage his, and America’s, credibility.
Retail Death Watch Resumes
The slow death of the department store is one of the oldest stories in business journalism. But last year struggling retailers such as J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and Macy’s Inc. upset the narrative with solid holiday results suggesting they might yet survive. A year later, the old story is back: Department stores have resumed struggling, Sarah Halzack notes, raising new questions about their relevance, just in time for a global trade war.
Where are their sales going? Amazon.com Inc. is the prime suspect. But Sarah, in a second column, writes another place to look is big-box stores such as Target Corp. and Walmart Inc., which just keep racking up strong sales growth. They even seem able to handle a trade war, Sarah writes.
It helps that both Target and Walmart have upgraded their technology. For a cautionary tale of what happens when you don’t, a very busy Sarah writes in a third column, check out the technological nightmare that was Lowe’s Cos. Inc.’s latest quarter.
No-Deal Brexit Risk Rises
Speaking of disasters, Theresa May’s premiership kept stumbling toward an early grave today, with her last-ditch effort to pass a Brexit plan DOA, another cabinet minister quitting and Tories pressuring her to resign. This raises the risk of a no-deal Brexit, which most economists agree would be the worst outcome for the U.K. and the pound, John Authers notes. It would not bother Brexiteer and Milkshake Magnet Nigel Farage and his supporters in hard-hit British towns, who yearn for a no-deal Brexit. Therese Raphael spent some time with the Brexit base recently and witnessed the pull of Farage’s simple message.
A Better Tax Plan
If you need something done for free, maybe don’t get a profit-seeking company to do it. The IRS several years ago outsourced to private companies the job of offering free, easy tax preparation to low-income Americans. Somehow, barely any low-income Americans eligible for the free service actually get it. It’s time for the IRS to take over the job, Bloomberg’s editorial board writes. The agency needs a tech upgrade anyway, and this should be part of it.
Climate change will end Ryanair’s cheap-flight business model, writes Chris Bryant.
WeWork junk bonds are losing their IPO-news pop as investors fret over the downside, of which there seems to be a lot, writes Brian Chappatta.