Huawei's billionaire CEO said Trump should meet him in China because he can only afford a paper airplane

  • Huawei's CEO Ren Zhengfei said Wednesday he would be happy to meet with President Donald Trump, but that he'd have to come to China.
  • "He has private jets and he can come to China anytime, and I do not have private jet. My airplane is only made of paper, if it rains it might fall," Ren said.
  • Ren is estimated to be a billionaire as the CEO and founder of Huawei, which is the world's second-biggest phone maker behind Samsung and dominant in mobile network equipment.
  • Ren has given conflicting statements over whether he'd talk to the president after Trump's administration placed Huawei on a trade blacklist in May.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei said during a panel discussion on Wednesday that if President Trump wants to talk he'll have to come to China.

Ren was asked why he doesn't go to Washington to lobby Trump directly after Huawei was blacklisted by the US in May. Huawei's new phones are also blocked from running Google's mobile services thanks to the block.

"I don't have a channel of communication with Trump, I don't have his mobile phone number," Ren replied, although when asked whether he would speak with Trump given the chance he said: "Yes I would, certainly."

"He has private jets and he can come to China anytime, and I do not have private jet. My airplane is only made of paper, if it rains it might fall," he added.

Huawei is the second-biggest smartphone maker in the world, and dominant in mobile network equipment. Forbes places Ren's net worth at $1.4 billion.

The CEO has a history of confusing statements regarding Donald Trump.

In January 2019, after his CFO and daughter Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada at the behest of the US, Ren said Trump was a "great president."

Following the company's blacklisting however Ren said he would ignore a call from the president if it came in, and a month later he said he might be "too busy" to answer a call from Trump — adding that he doesn't speak English.

Ren's comments on Wednesday come as the US and China close in on sealing "phase one" of a trade deal, which may mean US suppliers will be able sell to Huawei once more.

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Ivanka Trump and President Trump open Louis Vuitton factory
President Donald Trump tours the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, with Bernard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH, third from right, Alexandre Arnault, second from right and Ivanka Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
(FromR) Ivanka Trump, advisor to the US president, US President Donald Trump, Chief Executive of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) Bernard Arnault, CEO of Louis Vuitton Michael Burke and Alexandre Arnault prepare cut the ribbon during a visit to the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado (40 miles south of Fort Worth), Johnson County, Texas on October 17, 2019. - A workshop of the French brand Louis Vuitton will be inaugurated in Texas by Donald Trump, in the presence of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, who had indicated to the American President in 2017 that he was ready to invest more in the United States. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
Ivanka Trump (R) and husband Jared Kushner, advisors to the US president, visit the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado (40 miles south of Fort Worth), Johnson County, Texas on October 17, 2019. - A workshop of the French brand Louis Vuitton will be inaugurated in Texas by Donald Trump, in the presence of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, who had indicated to the American President in 2017 that he was ready to invest more in the United States. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump gestures, flanked by Ivanka Trump (R), advisor to the US president,Chief Executive of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) Bernard Arnault (2nd L) and CEO of Louis Vuitton Michael Burke during a visit to the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado (40 miles south of Fort Worth), Johnson County, Texas on October 17, 2019. - A workshop of the French brand Louis Vuitton will be inaugurated in Texas by Donald Trump, in the presence of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, who had indicated to the American President in 2017 that he was ready to invest more in the United States. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump holds a bag during a visit to the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado (40 miles south of Fort Worth), Johnson County, Texas on October 17, 2019. - A workshop of the French brand Louis Vuitton will be inaugurated in Texas by Donald Trump, in the presence of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, who had indicated to the American President in 2017 that he was ready to invest more in the United States. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
(FromR) Ivanka Trump, advisor to the US president, Alexandre Arnault, Chief Executive of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) Bernard Arnault, CEO of Louis Vuitton Michael Burke and US President Donald Trump visit the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado (40 miles south of Fort Worth), Johnson County, Texas on October 17, 2019. - A workshop of the French brand Louis Vuitton will be inaugurated in Texas by Donald Trump, in the presence of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, who had indicated to the American President in 2017 that he was ready to invest more in the United States. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
(FromR) Ivanka Trump, advisor to the US president, Alexandre Arnault, Chief Executive of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) Bernard Arnault, CEO of Louis Vuitton Michael Burke and US President Donald Trump watch a worker demonstrate how a bag is sewn during a visit to the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado (40 miles south of Fort Worth), Johnson County, Texas on October 17, 2019. - A workshop of the French brand Louis Vuitton will be inaugurated in Texas by Donald Trump, in the presence of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, who had indicated to the American President in 2017 that he was ready to invest more in the United States. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Chief Executive of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) Bernard Arnault during a visit to the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado (40 miles south of Fort Worth), Johnson County, Texas on October 17, 2019. - A workshop of the French brand Louis Vuitton will be inaugurated in Texas by Donald Trump, in the presence of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, who had indicated to the American President in 2017 that he was ready to invest more in the United States. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
Ivanka Trump (R) and husband Jared Kushner, advisors to the US president, visit the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado (40 miles south of Fort Worth), Johnson County, Texas on October 17, 2019. - A workshop of the French brand Louis Vuitton will be inaugurated in Texas by Donald Trump, in the presence of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, who had indicated to the American President in 2017 that he was ready to invest more in the United States. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump shakes hands with Chief Executive of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) Bernard Arnault during his visit of the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado (40 miles south of Fort Worth), Johnson County, Texas on October 17, 2019. - A workshop of the French brand Louis Vuitton will be inaugurated in Texas by Donald Trump, in the presence of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, who had indicated to the American President in 2017 that he was ready to invest more in the United States. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
Chief Executive of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) Bernard Arnault speaks during a visit to the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado (40 miles south of Fort Worth), Johnson County, Texas on October 17, 2019. - A workshop of the French brand Louis Vuitton will be inaugurated in Texas by Donald Trump, in the presence of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, who had indicated to the American President in 2017 that he was ready to invest more in the United States. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump talks to the press as he arrives to visit the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado (40 miles south of Fort Worth), Johnson County, Texas on October 17, 2019. - A workshop of the French brand Louis Vuitton will be inaugurated in Texas by Donald Trump, in the presence of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, who had indicated to the American President in 2017 that he was ready to invest more in the United States. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L), CEO of Louis Vuitton Michael Burke (C) and Chief Executive of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) Bernard Arnault visit the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado (40 miles south of Fort Worth), Johnson County, Texas on October 17, 2019. - A workshop of the French brand Louis Vuitton will be inaugurated in Texas by Donald Trump, in the presence of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, who had indicated to the American President in 2017 that he was ready to invest more in the United States. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump (L), CEO of Louis Vuitton Michael Burke (C) and Chief Executive of LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy) Bernard Arnault visit the new Louis Vuitton factory in Alvarado (40 miles south of Fort Worth), Johnson County, Texas on October 17, 2019. - A workshop of the French brand Louis Vuitton will be inaugurated in Texas by Donald Trump, in the presence of Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH, who had indicated to the American President in 2017 that he was ready to invest more in the United States. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump, the daughter and senior adviser to President Donald Trump, depart Air Force One early Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., following a trip to Texas. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, center left, applauds Ivanka Trump during a campaign rally for President Donald Trump, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jeffrey McWhorter)
President Donald Trump cuts a ribbon with Bernard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH, at the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. At right is Ivanka Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
From left, Michael Burke, Alexandre Arnault, Ivanka Trump and Bernard Arnault talk as President Donald Trump tours the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Ivanka Trump and senior adviser Jared Kushner are recognized as President Donald Trump speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Energy Secretary Rick Perry listen during an event with President Donald Trump at the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump participates in a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, with from left Alexandre Arnault, Michael Burke, Bernard Arnault and Ivanka Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross listen during an event with President Donald Trump at the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Bernard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH, second from left, Alexandre Arnault, second from right and Ivanka Trump talk as President Donald Trump tours the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump tours the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, with Bernard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH, third from right, Alexandre Arnault, second from right and Ivanka Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Ivanka Trump, daughter of President Donald Trump arrives to board Marine One at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Fort Worth, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, to travel to the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump tours the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, with Bernard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH, third from right, Alexandre Arnault, second from right and Ivanka Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Ivanka Trump and senior adviser Jared Kushner are recognized as President Donald Trump speaks during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump arrives with Bernard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH during a ribbon cutting ceremony with at the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump participates in a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, with from left Alexandre Arnault, Michael Burke, Bernard Arnault and Ivanka Trump. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump tours the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, with Bernard Arnault, chief executive of LVMH, right, Alexandre Arnault, third from right, Ivanka Trump, second from right and Michael Burke. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump tours the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
President Donald Trump tours the Louis Vuitton Workshop Rochambeau in Alvarado, Texas, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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"From the beginning I've never paid any attention to the trade war," Ren said, adding: "We have zero sales in the United States, so the trade war between the two countries bears no impact on Huawei."

It's true that Huawei mostly doesn't sell phones in the US. It has been impacted by the US lobbying its allies to block the firm from providing equipment for new superfast 5G mobile networks, however.

And Ren admitted the blacklist had impacted Huawei because it was unable to license and pre-install Google's suite of apps on its new flagship Mate 30 phone. The ability to use Google's services is key for most Western consumers buying Android phones.

"The impact in the non-China region is bigger than the China region," Ren said.

Do you work at Huawei? Contact this reporter via email at ihamilton@businessinsider.com or iahamilton@protonmail.com. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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