Trump may give TikTok’s Chinese owner 45 days to reach deal to sell; Pompeo says US to act on China software beyond TikTok

WASHINGTON (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) – US President Donald Trump has agreed to give China’s ByteDance 45 days to negotiate a sale of popular short-video app TikTok to Microsoft Corp, Reuters quoted its sources as saying on Sunday (Aug 2).

The negotiations between ByteDance and Microsoft will be overseen by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a US government panel that has the right to block any agreement, the sources added.

TikTok has hired almost 1,000 people in the US this year and will be employing another 10,000 in the US.
TikTok has hired almost 1,000 people in the US this year and will be employing another 10,000 in the US.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ByteDance, Microsoft and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Chinese newspapers slammed a potential ban on TikTok.

President Donald Trump told reporters on Friday that he planned to ban TikTok from the US but his decision hasn’t been announced.

The president continues to weigh his options and may have an answer on Monday or Tuesday, Fox Business reported on Sunday evening.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had earlier said that the Trump administration would announce measures against “a broad array” of Chinese-owned software deemed to pose national-security risks, 

The comments suggest a possible widening of US measures beyond TikTok, the popular music-video app owned by ByteDance, one of China’s biggest tech companies.

Trump’s decision has implications for Microsoft Corp., which has been exploring an acquisition of the app from ByteDance, according to people familiar with the matter.

Talks on the possible acquisition were left in limbo over the weekend as the parties awaited word from the White House – even as a number of Republican senators expressed support.

“If the company & data can be purchased & secured by a trusted US company that would be a positive & acceptable outcome,” Senator Marco Rubio of Florida said on Twitter.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Trump confidant, tweeted that he understands the concerns of TikTok fans and users and that Microsoft taking over would be a “win-win”.

Senators John Cornyn of Texas and Roger Wicker of Mississippi made similar comments, although Wicker also urged “tight security measures” to protect consumer data.

Chinese software companies doing business in the US are feeding data directly to Chinese authorities “whether it’s TikTok or WeChat – there are countless more,” Pompeo, on of the Trump administraton’s China hawks, said on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures”.

Trump “will take action in the coming days with respect to a broad array of national-security risks that are presented by software connected to the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo said.

Trump can either “force a sale” of TikTok or block the app by executive order, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that he wouldn’t discuss specifics on his talks with the president on the topic.

CFIUS OBJECTIONS

Mnuchin, who heads the Committee on Foreign Investment on the United States, or CFIUS, said “the entire committee agrees that TikTok cannot stay in the current format because it risks sending back information on 100 million Americans”.

That view that “there has to be a change” is shared by lawmakers including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, Mnuchin said.

TikTok has become one of the world’s most popular apps. It’s been downloaded more than 2 billion times globally and more than 165 million times in the US ByteDance is prepared to sell 100 per cent of TikTok’s US operations as a way to head off a ban by Trump, two people with knowledge of the situation said earlier.

TikTok has hired almost 1,000 people in the US this year and will be employing another 10,000 into “great paying jobs” in the US, a company spokeswoman said in a statement.

The business’s US$1 billion creator fund also supports people in the country who are building livelihoods from the platform, she added.

“TikTok US user data is stored in the US, with strict controls on employee access,” she said.

“TikTok’s biggest investors come from the U.S. We are committed to protecting our users’ privacy and safety.”

Chinese state media defended TikTok, characterising the Trump administration’s antagonism towards the company in a similar fashion to US politicians’ attitude towards the Chinese global networking giant Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.

The China Daily wrote in an editorial on Sunday that “although the Oval Office claims to oppose authoritarianism, it has a penchant for arbitrarily demonstrating its own authority.”

And an editorial in the Global Times, one of China’s most combative state-run papers, said that “the US claim that TikTok threatens its own national security is purely hypothetical and unwarranted charge – just like the groundless accusation that Huawei gathers intelligence for the Chinese government.”

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