US flags are seen near a Bytedance logo in this illustration picture taken September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Florence Lo
US flags are seen near a Bytedance logo in this illustration picture taken September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Florence Lo

ByteDance, the Chinese parent of video app TikTok, has submitted an application in Beijing for permission to export technology, as it tries to work out an agreement with the Trump administration that will avoid a US ban on the service.

The company said it filed the request with the city’s commerce bureau after China tightened restrictions on the export of certain technologies, including those used in TikTok. A spokesperson for the commerce ministry acknowledged the filing on Thursday, saying it’ll be assessed “in accordance with the relevant rules and procedures”.

China has asserted it would have to sign off on any deal for TikTok, after the White House pressured ByteDance into ceding control over the wildly popular app.

TikTok has been caught in the escalating battle between the world’s two most powerful nations. ByteDance worked out an agreement for TikTok with Oracle and Walmart that appeared at first to win President Donald Trump’s blessing, but negotiations have been thrown into chaos because of disagreements over the supposed terms. TikTok is scheduled to be banned in the US this weekend if the deal isn’t finalised.

Initially, China seemed likely to approve the TikTok agreement, as long as ByteDance retained control of its technologies. But Chinese state media has voiced increasing opposition to the deal as the Trump administration has expressed demands for more equity in US hands and more control over data and technology.

Whether ByteDance ends up with a majority or minority stake in the new TikTok Global, it probably needs government approval.

“ByteDance needs to license to TikTok the use of its software and tech, which is a form of tech export,” said Zhaokang Jiang, a trade attorney and managing partner of GSC Potomac. “It should be covered by China’s export control law.”

ByteDance said it is waiting for a decision from the bureau on acceptance of the application, without giving details of the application.


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