US takes another swipe at Huaweii
Publish date: 13 March 2019
Issue Number: 1772
Diary: Legalbrief eLaw
The US has underscored to Germany its threat to limit intelligence sharing with countries that use Chinese tech giant Huawei to build their 5G communications networks. US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell has threatened to curtail German access to US intelligence if Berlin decides to issue contracts to Huawei. Germany last week announced that it wouldn't ban any company from bidding on 5G contracts. CNN reports that the US warning echoes a steady drumbeat of statements by top US officials, including Vice-President Mike Pence, who flagged Huawei's alleged connections to Chinese intelligence and its ability to compromise national security by selling equipment with ‘backdoors’ that could allow for unauthorised surveillance. Even as major US wireless carriers and the federal government shun Huawei over national security concerns, its technology is widely deployed by a number of small, federally-subsidised carriers that buy cheaper Chinese-made hardware to place atop their cell towers – in some cases providing exclusive coverage to rural areas close to US military bases. As the US lobbies against the world's largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer, the issue is straining US ties with some allies and is becoming a potent irritant in a US-China relationship already strained by trade friction.
Huawei, which shunned the spotlight as it grew to become one of the world's top tech companies, is now going on the offensive to counter the US campaign aimed at curbing its business. Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei has given a series of rare interviews in recent weeks, and Huawei executives were out in force to defend the company at the recent Mobile World Congress. The company has taken out a full-page advertisement in the Wall Street Journal. In New Zealand, where the government has blocked its top telecom firm from using Huawei equipment in its 5G mobile network, Huawei is running ads that compare 5G without Huawei to ‘life without rugby.’ However, CNN reports that the most dramatic sign of the strategy shift came last week when Huawei invited journalists to its campus in Shenzhen, brought out a team of top executives, and announced it was suing the US Government over a law that bans federal agencies from buying its products. ‘The US Congress has repeatedly failed to produce any evidence to support its restrictions on Huawei products,’ said Huawei Deputy Chairman Guo Ping. ‘We are compelled to take this legal action as a proper and last resort.’