U.S. Commerce official resigns, viewed as moderating voice on China export issues

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(Reuters) – A senior U.S. Commerce Department official involved in export policy has resigned, a spokesman said on Wednesday, marking the departure of a moderating voice in the Trump administration about export restrictions on Huawei and other Chinese companies.

Richard Ashooh, U.S. assistant secretary for export administration for the past three years, was known as neither a hardliner nor a dove, according to people familiar with him.

Ashooh’s resignation will be effective on July 16, the department spokesman confirmed. He declined to comment on a reason for Ashooh’s move.

Nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate in August 2017, Ashooh was the longest serving Senate-confirmed political appointee at the Commerce Department besides U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

“He’s thoughtful and rational, neither an ideologue nor a pushover,” said Washington lawyer Kevin Wolf, a former Commerce official. “He really has taken on the role of working through the regs and trying to administer the system properly.”

Ashooh signed a rule last month allowing U.S. companies to share information and technology with Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei Technologies Co Ltd to develop industry standards, despite its “entity listing,” which restricts U.S. suppliers from doing business with the company.

Ashooh also played a role in General Electric ‘s (N:GE) being able to continue supplying engines for a new Chinese passenger airplane.

At the same time, he signed off on some of the stronger restrictions against Chinese entities, such as adding video surveillance company Hikvision and dozens of others to the department’s black list.

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