U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order Wednesday declaring a national emergency and barring U.S. companies from using telecommunications equipment made by firms posing a national security risk. The move paves the way for a ban on doing business with China’s Huawei Technologies.
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 communications technology and services supply chain from “foreign adversaries,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, Americans will be able to trust that our data and infrastructure are secure,” he said.
The order does not specifically name any country or company, but U.S. officials have previously labelled Huawei a “threat.”
Canada reviewing use of Huawei
The executive order comes at a delicate time in relations between China and the U.S. as the world’s two largest economies ratchet up tariffs in a battle over what U.S. 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 such allegations, did not immediately comment on the executive order.
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 U.S. government itself from using equipment from Huawei and another Chinese provider, ZTE Corp.
Ottawa is currently conducting a review of the security implications of allowing Huawei to help develop the next generation of mobile infrastructure in Canada.
Australia, Japan and Taiwan have moved to limit use of Huawei technology. The governments of Germany and France are among those not heeding U.S. warnings.
Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai, who has called Huawei a threat to U.S. 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.”
In January, the U.S. Justice Department unsealed criminal charges against Huawei, a top company executive and several subsidiaries, alleging the company stole trade secrets, misled banks about its business and violated U.S. sanctions. The sweeping indictments accuse the company of using extreme efforts to steal trade secrets from American businesses — including trying to take a piece of a robot from a T-Mobile lab.
The executive charged is Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, who was arrested in Vancouver last December. She is currently under house arrest and fighting extradition to the U.S.