The Trump administration has an executive order in the works that would ban the use of equipment from Chinese vendors in U.S. telecom networks, according to published reports. It could be signed as soon as this week.
Politico cited three anonymous sources, including one “close to the administration” as well as an industry source familiar with the matter. The latter told Politico that there is “a big push to get it out before MWC,” sending a message to the international telecommunications industry ahead of the year’s biggest conference.
Such an executive order would escalate ongoing trade tensions between China and the U.S. as well as the global debate over the security of Chinese network equipment. The Trump administration has vigorously pursued action against ZTE for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran — resulting in an export ban that led to the temporary shut-down of the company last year — and has accused Huawei of doing the same, as well as participating in corporate espionage.
The Department of Justice recently outlined 23 charges against Huawei, two of its affiliates, and CFO Meng Wangzhou (who was arrested in Canada last December), from grand juries in Seattle and New York. The DOJ is alleging financial fraud and violations of U.S. trade rules as well as corporate espionage related to T-Mobile US’ development of a robot for testing mobile devices. The administration has formally requested Meng’s extradition to the U.S. to stand trial.
In New York, Huawei, Meng and two of Huawei’s affiliates — Huawei Device USA and Skycom Tech, based in Iran — face a 13-count indictment that outlines what the DOJ described as more than a decade of criminal activity that violated U.S. trade rules and sanctions on Iran. Violations of those sanctions led to the U.S. imposing an export ban on Chinese vendor ZTE which ultimately forced the company to temporarily shut down its operations until it met conditions — including fines, firing its top executives and agreeing to U.S. monitors — that satisfied U.S. Department of Commerce officials.
At a Senate hearing last week on the race to 5G, senators repeatedly expressed concern about the cybersecurity risks posed by the use of Chinese-made equipment in U.S. telecom networks, from potential back-door access to the use of malware or spyware to provide information to the Chinese government.
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