The U.S. Department of Justice filed filed criminal charges on Monday to officially request the extradition of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
The Justice Department also announced charges Monday against Huawei for allegedly stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile. The charges stem from a civil trade secrets lawsuit filed by T-Mobile in 2014 over a robot called “Tappy,” which was used in testing smartphones.
“Huawei and its senior executives repeatedly refused to respect U.S. law,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Huawei … systematically sought to steal valuable trade secrets.”
Meng, who is also the daughter of Huawei’s founder and president Ren Zhengfei, was arrested on Dec. 1 in Vancouver. Her arrest sparked a series of tense exchanges between China and Canada over the possibility that she could be transferred to the U.S.
“The timing is certainly interesting given the upcoming discussions this week in D.C., but I think we have to take a step back and view this as part of a larger effort within the Justice Department, in particular, to focus on what it sees as misbehavior on the part of Chinese firms and individuals in the United States for a variety of reasons,” Robert Williams, executive director at the Paul Tsai China Center in Yale Law School, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Tuesday.
A spokesperson at China’s industry and information technology ministry said Tuesday that the U.S. government indictment against Huawei was “unfair” and “immoral,” Reuters reported. The foreign ministry of China also appealed to the U.S. to stop “unreasonable suppression” of Chinese companies, according to Reuters.
The latest development came ahead of a new round of high level trade negotiations between the two economic powerhouses locked in an ongoing trade war.
Chinese state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that Chinese Vice Premier Liu He arrived in Washington D.C. on Monday for economic and trade talks. Chinese central bank governor Yi Gang is also part of Liu’s delegation to the U.S., according to the report.
The Chinese delegation will be accompanied by a team from Washington led by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, with negotiations set to take place on Wednesday and Thursday.
“I don’t think we can say that this is directly tied to the trade negotiations in that kind of transactional way. That’s just not the way the U.S. law enforcement system works, it’s not the way the Justice department works. These criminal investigations began long before the current trade negotiations. So I think we have to view it in that context,” Williams said.