Larry Kudlow was asked Friday if investors should see the criminal case against the Chinese smartphone giant as a “wild card” in the ongoing talks.
“The Huawei issue is a complicated issue. It’s really not a trade issue,” Kudlow said in an interview on CNBC. “I mean, if you listen to ambassador (Robert) Lighthizer, we regard that more as a legal issue — at least at the moment.”
He acknowledged that arrest of the Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou is “part of the overall landscape” but said he didn’t want to comment on it.
“There’s a legal process that’s going on. It may enter into trade — I don’t want to make any predictions. Let me just set Huawei aside for the moment.”
Extradition proceedings against Meng have started in Vancouver, where she was arrested in December on behalf of the U.S. The company is accused of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran and stealing trade secrets.
Trump has made several comments to suggest that the case — which has set off an escalating spat between Canada and Beijing — could become a consideration in the trade deal.
WATCH: Does Meng have a strong case against U.S. extradition?
In December, he told Reuters he would intervene in the Justice Department’s proceedings against Meng if it would help close the deal.
“If I think it’s good for the country, if I think it’s good for what will be certainly the largest trade deal ever made – which is a very important thing – what’s good for national security – I would certainly intervene if I thought it was necessary,” he said.
Last month, ahead of a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, Trump said that a decision on Huawei is pending, but “right now, it’s not something we’re discussing.”
Trump’s comments have already become an element in the extradition case underway in Vancouver.
This week, Meng’s lawyer Richard Peck told a B.C. Supreme Court judge the case is “rare” and said the president’s comments raise concerns about political motivations.
John McCallum, Canada’s now ex-ambassador to China, said in January that he believes Meng’s lawyers can make “strong arguments” that Trump politicized her arrest.
— With files from The Canadian Press, the Associated Press and Reuters
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