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Trump may ban China’s Huawei, ZTE equipment in US over spying concerns

Huawei Canada. (Raysonho/Wikimedia Commons)
December 28, 2018

Huawei and ZTE products could become banned in the U.S. according to new reports.

President Trump is reportedly considering an executive order that could go into effect as early as January and would prohibit American companies from using restricted telecommunications equipment, possibly from Huawei and ZTE, according to an exclusive Reuters report on Thursday.

The order would tap into the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, enabling the president to perform emergency regulatory actions under a commerce-related national emergency.

The order would authorize the Commerce Department to deny U.S. companies access to purchasing telecommunications equipment from restricted foreign entities who are deemed to pose a threat to national security.

Trump has considered the order for some eight months.

It’s not yet clear if Huawei or ZTE would become restricted entities under the executive order, but the order is expected to at least limit the amount of permissible equipment purchased from the two companies.

“Some countries abuse and use the issue of national security without any evidence, politicize normal scientific and technological exchanges with unwarranted charges, and set up various obstacles and restrictions,” said China’s Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying in response to the potential order. “This is actually tantamount to closing the door of openness on yourself, as well as the door of progress and fairness.”

Japan is also said to be considering a ban on Huawei and ZTE equipment in an attempt to reduce cyber attacks and data leaks, Reuters reported.

Australia previously banned Huawei and ZTE from their new 5G network.

The U.S. has previously asserted that Huawei and ZTE are connected to the intelligence agency of the Chinese Communist Party, and are accused of using their devices to spy on U.S. military bases.

In May, the Department of Defense ordered retail stores on all military bases to stop selling Huawei and ZTE devices, citing security risks.

Pentagon spokesman Maj. David W. Eastburn said at the time that “Huawei and ZTE devices may pose an unacceptable risk to department’s personnel, information and mission.”

While Eastburn cited security concerns in refusing to specify how the devices posed a risk, Sens. Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton supported the move and encouraged a complete ban of the products in the U.S. Both senators have access to classified information as members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and likely have knowledge of what specific threats the products pose.

Months later in July, members of the House and Senate revealed a defense authorization plan that included provisions to protect the U.S. against China, among other global threats. Among the provisions was a prohibition on any U.S. government agency, or any company working with U.S. agencies, from using Huawei or ZTE technologies.

The equipment poses a risk because “hidden ‘back doors’ to our networks in routers, switches — and virtually any other type of telecommunications equipment – can provide an avenue for hostile governments to inject viruses, launch denial-of-service attacks, steal data, and more,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in March.

Rural wireless companies are said to be some of the largest users of Huawei and ZTE products, such as switches.

An estimated 25 percent of Rural Wireless Association member companies use Huawei and ZTE equipment for their rural networks, and replacing such equipment could cost between $800 million and $1 billion to replace.