Trump to add China’s SMIC and CNOOC to defence blacklist

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration is poised to add China’s top chipmaker SMIC and national offshore oil and gas producer CNOOC to a blacklist of alleged Chinese military companies, according to a document and sources, curbing their access to US investors and escalating tensions with Beijing weeks before President-elect Joe Biden takes office.

Reuters reported earlier this month that the Department of Defense (DOD) was planning to designate four more Chinese companies as owned or controlled by the Chinese military, bringing the number of Chinese companies affected to 35. A recent executive order issued by President Donald Trump would prevent US investors from buying securities of the listed firms starting late next year.

It was not immediately clear when the new tranche, would be published in the Federal Register. But the list comprises China Construction Technology Co Ltd and China International Engineering Consulting Corp, in addition to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC) and China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC), according to the document and three sources.

SMIC said it continued “to engage constructively and openly with the US government” and that its products and services were solely for civilian and commercial use. “The Company has no relationship with the Chinese military and does not manufacture for any military end-users or end-uses.” Shares in SMIC closed 2.7pc lower on Monday.

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CNOOC’s listed unit CNOOC Ltd, whose shares fell by almost 14pc after the Reuters report, said in a stock market statement that it had inquired with its parent and learnt that it had not received any formal notice from relevant U.S. authorities.

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said, in response to a question about Washington’s planned move, that China hoped the United States would not erect barriers and obstacles to cooperation and discriminate against Chinese companies.

Later on Monday, Bernstein Research downgraded CNOOC Ltd’s stock to ‘market perform’ by applying a 30% discount to share price targets, citing sanction risks that range from a ban on U.S. funds owning CNOOC stock to prohibiting US companies from doing business with CNOOC.

The DOD and the Chinese embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

SMIC, which relies heavily on equipment from US suppliers, was already in Washington’s crosshairs. In September, the US Commerce Department informed some firms that they need to obtain a license before supplying goods and services to SMIC after concluding there was an “unacceptable risk” that equipment supplied to it could be used for military purposes.

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