WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s nominee to oversee the U.S. Commerce Department’s bureau that controls exports of technology to foreign companies, like China’s Huawei Technologies, said on Thursday she is renouncing her acting duties but has not withdrawn from the confirmation process.
Nazak Nikakhtar was nominated by Trump in April to head the department’s Bureau of Industry and Security and has taken on the role in an acting capacity awaiting confirmation. Neither she nor the Commerce Department, which first confirmed the move, offered a reason for her decision to renounce the duties.
“Nazak Nikakhtar has decided to return to her Senate confirmed role as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Analysis, a critical position here at the Department, where she will continue to advance the Administration’s trade and national security policy priorities,” a spokesman said.
Reached by Reuters, Nikakhtar said she was “really proud to have served,” and committed to serving Commerce Department Secretary Wilbur Ross any way possible. “I am going to speak with leadership about how I can best serve the country,” she added.
The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) is at the forefront of Trump’s trade war with Beijing, which the United States launched last year in part over allegations Chinese companies steal American intellectual property.
After the U.S. government accused Huawei, the world’s top telecoms equipment maker, of stealing U.S. technology and violating Iran sanctions, BIS placed it on a blacklist, effectively banning firms from selling U.S. goods to the Chinese company without special licenses.
Since then, companies have submitted over 130 applications for licenses to sell U.S. goods to Huawei, but have received no responses, even though Trump promised to allow some sales to the firm at a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in June.
BIS was also tasked a year ago with spearheading a set of rules to make it harder to export certain critical technologies deemed essential to national security to countries like China.
Many companies are waiting impatiently for rule proposals to find out what technologies will be affected by the upcoming regulations.
Nikakhtar was confirmed by the Senate to fill the role of assistant Secretary for Industry and Analysis in March last year.
(This story corrects headline, first paragraph and second paragraph to show she is only withdrawing from acting post)
Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Writing by Alexandra Alper; Editing by Dan Grebler