The U.S. Department of Commerce will within days ban the distribution of the Chinese apps TikTok and WeChat through American app stores.
The ban will go into effect on Sept. 20, the department confirmed Friday, despite ongoing talks to spin off TikTok’s non-Chinese operations into a company that would hold a U.S. IPO next year.
In a statement, the department said TikTok’s ban may be lifted if national-security concerns about the video app are resolved by Nov. 12, suggesting President Donald Trump is still open to the idea of a deal around TikTok. WeChat’s functionality, including that for payments, will be blocked in the U.S. on Sunday, but those who have already downloaded TikTok will remain able to use it until that November date.
The deal that is reportedly on the table would see TikTok owner ByteDance form a partnership with the U.S. business-software firm Oracle through a new company named TikTok Global. Walmart is also seeking a stake.
However, the proposed arrangement appears to fall short of the outright sale of TikTok’s U.S. operations that Trump demanded. The deal would also likely require sign-off from Beijing, further complicating the matter.
Trump signed executive orders signaling the bans, with 45 days’ notice, on Aug. 6. The justification lay in the privacy and national-security risks supposedly posed by WeChat, a globally popular messaging, social media, and payments app, and by TikTok, which is a big hit in the U.S. with around 100 million users.
The Department of Commerce’s statement comes shortly after it emerged that Tencent Holdings, WeChat’s owner, had changed the name of the office-focused version of the app from WeChat Work to WeCom. Reuters reported that this was an attempt to skirt the scope of the U.S. ban on WeChat.
However, the statement noted that “should the U.S. Government determine that WeChat’s or TikTok’s illicit behavior is being replicated by another app somehow outside the scope of these executive orders, the President has the authority to consider whether additional orders may be appropriate to address such activities.”
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