European Partners ‘Skeptical’ About US Campaign To Ban Huawei

European partners skeptical on Huawei banning

The United States’ campaign against tech giant and network infrastructure company Huawei has been slapped with skepticism from the country’s European allies as the tension between the Trump Administration and Huawei escalates.

The United States has been vocal regarding it’s warning against the company and accused it of being a Trojan horse for the Chinese authoritarian government, and the potential of it to be used for espionage and controlling sensitive communication lines.

Trump’s administration has launched a global campaign warning other governments and urging them to ban Huawei’s technology, especially that it has recently unveiled its 5G tech, which experts expect that they would lead.

In a bilateral meeting with the US government last week, European countries took a ‘skeptical’ stance against the assertion from the US that the security threats cannot be managed, according to participants of the said meeting.

While most European countries agree that Huawei could be used by the Chinese government and enable espionage, they mostly disagree on the contention that their technologies could not contain the risk.

“They understand there’s a security concern,” said Robert Strayer, assistant secretary of state for cyber policy, who took part in the meetings. “The issue is how you solve it. Our position is there’s no way to manage it effectively. In a 5G network that relies on millions of lines of code, it only takes one line of code to compromise the network.”

The disconnect between the United States and its European partners poses a chilling challenge to the first world country’s bid to take leadership on the build-out of the state-of-the-art, next-generation 5G networks that could be used to power self-driving cars, smart cities, and other new technologies that would require a fast internet connection.

In the recent months, after intense lobbying by Huawei, reports suggest that Britain and New Zealand may go back to Huawei after previous announcements of freezing the company out in their telecom plans.

At the world’s top mobile industry fair in Spain last week, Huawei bagged 5G commercial contracts or partnership agreements with ten telecom operators — including Switzerland’s Sunrise, Iceland’s Nova, Saudi Arabia’s STC and Turkey’s Turkcell.

The problem for the US was even amplified following Trump’s announcement that he is willing to work with Huawei and help them in their legal battle with the Justice Department if the company would help him win more favorable terms in trade talks with China.

Notably, Donald Trump takes a more conservative stance in criticizing the company unlike other US officials like Vice President Pence, who warned of the “threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies” in Munich last month.

Officials from the departments of State, Commerce and Defense, and the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission made their pitches against Huawei’s equipment at a mobile industry conference in Barcelona last week. Despite the skepticism, US officials said they made progress.

American officials have pushed hard on the message of security risks from Huawei’s close ties with the Chinese government saying that the potential risk is not just about espionage and data security but the possibility of intervening in sensitive communications as well.

“With the transformational critical services that 5G will empower, we cannot risk having those services being disrupted or manipulated by authoritarian regimes,” Strayer said. “Those concerns are in addition to the diversion of sensitive personal and business data that authoritarian regimes have already shown they have an interest in acquiring by cyber means.”

In Barcelona, Strayer gave a speech in which he stressed that “Chinese law requires these firms to support and assist Beijing’s vast security apparatus, without any democratic checks and balances on access to, or use of, data that touches the networks or equipment installed and supported by these companies around the world.”

However, in Brussels, EU officials are wary of the American ban saying that it could be part of Trump’s ‘America First’ policy and more of a trade ban rather than a security risk ban.

In German, EU’s most robust economy, high courts have ruled out the ban from Huawei citing that a total ban is legally impossible. However, officials are still debating whether to impose strict regulations on the entry of Huawei.

Furthermore, in Britain, a country that has used Huawei’s telecom technology for the last few decades said that they are managing the risk by having a Huawei-run center overseen by British Intelligence Agency GCHQ. The center reviews Huawei source code for vulnerabilities.

GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Center last year found “serious” engineering problems with Huawei equipment, but NCSC director Ciaran Martin said that “strict controls” for deployment, including barring Huawei gear from any government or sensitive network, have limited those issues.

“Our regime is arguably the toughest and most rigorous oversight regime in the world for Huawei,” he said in a speech last month.

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