Trump bans US transactions with TikTok, Wechat
President Donald Trump issued executive orders banning any US transactions with the Chinese companies that own the TikTok and WeChat social media apps, saying the US must take “aggressive action” in the interest of national security.
Executive orders issued late on Thursday would prohibit “any transaction by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States,” with the companies, beginning in 45 days.
TikTok, a video-sharing app, has been attacked US lawmakers and the Trump administration over national security and data concerns. Its parent company ByteDance has been told to sell its US business to Microsoft or another American firm by September 15 or face an outright ban.
Tencent-owned WeChat is used globally for payments, chatting and an interface for other apps.
Trump's administration has said Chinese ownership of TikTok could give the Chinese government personal information about 100m US users.
Microsoft last week said it would pursue its planned acquisition of TikTok's US operations from its Chinese owner after a call between Chief Executive Satya Nadella and Donald Trump appeared to assuage the president, who also demanded the US government should get a cut from any sale.
The software giant said following the call between Nadella and Trump it would move quickly to complete discussions with ByteDance, TikTok's Chinese owner, by 15 September. The US company said it would remain in dialogue with its government, including Trump, during the talks to buy the video sharing platform.
In a statement Microsoft said: "Following a conversation between Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Donald J Trump, Microsoft is prepared to continue discussions to explore a purchase of TikTok in the United States.
"Microsoft fully appreciates the importance of addressing the President’s concerns. It is committed to acquiring TikTok subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury."
Microsoft said it was in talks with ByteDance to buy TikTok's operations in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. It said governments in those countries would have security oversight and that all data on American users would be moved to or stay in the US.
"To the extent that any such data is currently stored or backed-up outside the United States, Microsoft would ensure that this data is deleted from servers outside the country after it is transferred," Microsoft said. "Microsoft appreciates the US government’s and President Trump’s personal involvement as it continues to develop strong security protections for the country."
The Trump administration has become increasingly hostile towards Chinese companies, arguing that they are under the control of the Chinese government.
Trump's poll ratings have nosedived over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, where he has made several erroneous claims about testing and misjudged the public mood over protests over the death of George Floyd while being arrested by Minneapolis police.
He was also embarrassed when thousands of TikTok users registered for tickets to a Trump rally in Tulsa Oklahoma in June and then didn't attend, leaving the 19,000 seat venue less than a third full.