WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior U.S. Commerce Department official who helped lead the administration’s efforts to impose export restrictions on China’s Huawei Technologies Co [HWT.UL] is resigning, Secretary Wilbur Ross said on Monday.
Earl Comstock, who served for three years as director of Policy and Strategic Planning at the department, often clashed with other administration officials on a range of issues.
His resignation would be effective Friday, U.S. officials said.
Ross said in a statement he valued Comstock’s “wise counsel, his deep policy expertise, his innovative thinking and leadership,” and thanked him “for his service to the American people.” Comstock did not respond to a request for comment.
Comstock was a key person at the department on trade issues, notably the Commerce Department’s Section 232 investigations into the national security impacts of automotive, steel and aluminum imports, and the unsuccessful effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census.
He was also a driving force behind an effort to put further restrictions on Huawei. Among these were possible rules changes aimed at curtailing foreign shipments of products with U.S. technology to the world’s No. 2 smartphone vendor after the company’s placement on a U.S. trade blacklist in May failed to cut off supplies.
Comstock helped overcome opposition from the Defense Department to a draft rule that would broaden U.S. authority over items with some U.S. content shipped from overseas, people briefed on the matter said.
The fate of those restrictions is uncertain. A meeting on the issue is expected to take place this month.
Last month, President Donald Trump expressed alarm that new curbs on sales to China could have blocked U.S. microchip sales as well as General Electric’s ability to continue supplying engines for a new Chinese passenger airplane.
“I want our companies to be allowed to do business. I mean, things are put on my desk that have nothing to do with national security, including with chipmakers,” Trump said.
Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai told a Senate hearing in June that the Commerce Department had “been blocking our efforts at every single turn” to free up spectrum for 5G use on the grounds the sale could harm weather forecasting. Pai said the concerns were unfounded.
Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington and Karen Freifeld in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis, Andrea Ricci and Sonya Hepinstall