Apple, Disney, Ford and Walmart among corporate giants pushing back against Trump's WeChat ban – report

Major US companies have reportedly told the White House they are worried about losing access to the lucrative Chinese market after Trump signed an order targeting the popular Chinese WeChat app.

Citing sources familiar with the situation, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that “more than a dozen” US corporations had raised concerns in a recent call with White House staff about the “the potentially broad scope and impact” of the WeChat ban. According to the paper, Apple, Intel, Walmart, Disney, and Ford were among the companies that participated in the call. The companies declined to comment on the issue.

The executive order signed by US President Donald Trump last week would within 45 days prohibit Americans from doing business with Tencent, the owner of WeChat app. A similar order was issued against the Chinese company ByteDance, which owns the TikTok video-sharing service. Trump described both apps as threats to national security, accusing them of collecting the personal data of Americans and sharing them with the Chinese government. Beijing has repeatedly denied these claims.

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© Reuters / Florence Lo
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It is still unclear how Trump’s order would be enforced. But an effective ban on WeChat, which is used by more than 1.2 billion people worldwide, could damage the US companies’ ability to advertise in China, where the app is extremely popular. According to some estimates, annual iPhone shipments could decline by 25 to 30 percent if the Silicon Valley giant removes WeChat from its global app stores. In a similar fashion, the shipments of gear like iPads, AirPods, and Mac computers, could drop by 15 to 25 percent.

The attack on WeChat and TikTok was made amid a string of hostilities between Washington and Beijing, as the US continues to insist that China uses it popular IT brands, such as Huawei, for surveillance and espionage. When asked by the WSJ about the recent conference call with American companies, the White House stated that it is focused on “protecting the American people from all cyber-related threats.”

Reacting to Trump’s orders last week, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin reiterated that Chinese companies strictly abide by US laws and regulation. Wang claimed that the ban is “a blatant hegemonic act,” while the allegations of spying are just an excuse to “suppress” non-American firms doing business in the US.

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US President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019.
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