President Donald Trump has signed an executive order declaring a national emergency and barring US companies from using telecommunications equipment made by firms posing a national security risk, paving the way for a ban on doing business with China's Huawei Technologies Co.
The executive order invokes the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which gives the president the authority to regulate commerce in response to a national emergency that threatens the United States. The order directs the Commerce Department, working with other government agencies, to draw up a plan for enforcement within 150 days.
The order, which has been under review for more than a year, is aimed at protecting the supply chain from "foreign adversaries to the nation's information and communications technology and services supply chain," said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
"Under President Trump's leadership, Americans will be able to trust that our data and infrastructure are secure," he said.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that Trump was expected to take action on the long-awaited proposal this week. The order does not specifically name any country or company, but US officials have previously labeled Huawei a "threat" and actively lobbied allies to not using Huawei network equipment in next generation 5G networks.
The executive order comes at a delicate time in relations between China and the United States as the world's two largest economies ratchet up tariffs in a battle over what US officials call China's unfair trade practices.
Washington believes equipment made by Huawei could be used by the Chinese state to spy. Huawei, which has repeatedly denied the allegations, did not immediately comment.
The United States has been actively pushing other countries not to use Huawei's equipment in next-generation 5G networks that it calls "untrustworthy." In August, Trump signed a bill that barred the US government itself from using equipment from Huawei and another Chinese provider, ZTE Corp.
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who has called Huawei a threat to US security, said Wednesday that "given the threats presented by certain foreign companies’ equipment and services, this is a significant step toward securing America’s networks."
Huawei had earlier stated it is willing to sign no-spy agreements with governments, including Britain, amid US pressure on European countries to shun the firm over espionage concerns.
Washington has told allies not to use Huawei's technology to build new 5G networks because of worries it could be a vehicle for Chinese spying, an accusation the company has denied.
"We are willing to sign no-spy agreements with governments, including the UK government, to commit ourselves to making our equipment meet the no-spy, no-backdoors standard," Huawei chairman Liang Hua told reporters in London via an interpreter.
Britain is deciding the extent to which it will allow Huawei, the world's biggest supplier of telecoms equipment, to participate in building its 5G networks.
"The security and resilience of the UK's telecoms networks is of paramount importance, and we have strict controls for how Huawei equipment is currently deployed in the UK," a British government spokesman said on Tuesday.
He said the results of the telecoms supply chain review affecting Huawei's case would be announced soon and all network operators would need to comply by the decision.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown)
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