US tightens the noose on Huawei

The escalation of tensions between the US and China accelerated with Trump’s executive order, holding profound implications for Sino-US security and trading arrangements

The impact of President Donald Trump's national security ruling on dealing with foreign telecoms firms was felt almost immediately by Huawei, with Google announcing that it was blocking access to Android system app updates for Huawei smartphones.

President Trump signed an executive order on May 15, declaring a national emergency regarding telecommunications equipment that could pose a risk to national security. The order bans American companies from using any telecommunications equipment that the secretary of commerce declares to be a national security risk.

The order does not name specific companies, but many security experts insist the action is clearly aimed at Huawei. Though the move is motivated by national security interests, the development will certainly deepen simmering Sino-US tensions over trade policies.   

President Trump signed the order under powers including the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the National Emergencies Act.

The order claimed that foreign adversaries are increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology and services, which store and communicate vast amounts of sensitive information, facilitate the digital economy, and support critical infrastructure and vital emergency services, in order to commit malicious cyber-enabled actions, including economic and industrial espionage against the United States and its people. 

"I further find that the unrestricted acquisition or use in the United States of information and communications technology or services designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of foreign adversaries augments the ability of foreign adversaries to create and exploit vulnerabilities in information and communications technology or services, with potentially catastrophic effects, and thereby constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," the executive order said. 

The order continued: "This threat exists both in the case of individual acquisitions or uses of such technology or services, and when acquisitions or uses of such technologies are considered as a class. Although maintaining an open investment climate in information and communications technology, and in the United States economy more generally, is important for the overall growth and prosperity of the United States, such openness must be balanced by the need to protect our country against critical national security threats. To deal with this threat, additional steps are required to protect the security, integrity, and reliability of information and communications technology and services provided and used in the United States. In light of these findings, I hereby declare a national emergency with respect to this threat."

Under the terms of the executive order, the following actions are prohibited:  any acquisition, importation, transfer, installation, dealing in, or use of any information and communications technology or service (transaction) by any person, or with respect to any property, subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, where the transaction involves any property in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest (including through an interest in a contract for the provision of the technology or service), where the transaction was initiated, is pending, or will be completed after the date of the order.

Prohibition of activity by US companies will be coordinated with the secretary of commerce, in consultation with the secretary of the treasury, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, the attorney general, the secretary of homeland security, the United States trade representative, the director of national intelligence, the administrator of general services, the chairman of the federal communications commission, and, as appropriate, the heads of other executive departments and agencies.

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Date

22 May 2019

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