US President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency over foreign threats to US technology, signing an executive order that would allow the government to ban sales of Huawei products in the country.
Trump signed the executive order on “securing the information and communications technology and services supply chain” this week, giving the federal government the power to stop US companies buying telecommunications equipment made overseas if the technology poses a “significant risk to the national security of the US”.
While no specific companies or countries were mentioned in the order, it is widely believed that the powers will directly prevent Chinese telecommunications company Huawei from selling to US companies and participating in the country’s 5G network construction.
The order said that foreign interference in US technology could have “potentially catastrophic effects” and poses an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States”.
“The President has made it clear that this administration will do what it takes to keep America safe and prosperous, and to protect America from foreign adversaries who are actively and increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology infrastructure and services in the United States,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
Declaring the national emergency gives the Secretary of Commerce the power to decide which transactions pose a potential risk, and block these from taking place.
The order praises the “open investment climate” but said that “openness must be balanced by the needs to protect our country against critical national security threats”.
It prevents “any acquisition, importation, transfer, installation, dealing in, or use of any information and communications technology or service from anyone “owned by, controlled by or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of a foreign adversary” that poses an “undue risk of sabotage or subversion”.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the order will protect the tech supply chain from “foreign adversaries to the nation’s information and communications technology and services supply chain”.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, Americans will be able to trust that our data and infrastructure are secure,” Ross said.
The US has long been warning of the apparent threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese tech companies, and has been urging its allies to implement similar bans.
US law enforcement has argued that the Chinese government could force Huawei to install backdoors in their equipment to spy in the US, something which has been stringently denied by the company.
In August last year, Trump signed a bill preventing the US government from using Huawei and ZTE equipment.
Last February, the heads of the CIA, FBI and NSA told US citizens not to use Huawei or ZTE products.
In August last year Australia moved to block Huawei from offering its products to the construction of the country’s nation 5G network, preventing any company “likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law” from taking part.
In contrast, the UK has signalled that it is willing to allow Huawei to participate in the build of “non-core” parts of its 5G network, a decision that was slammed by the US.
Huawei has repeatedly denied claims it could spy for the Chinese government, saying it is an independent company that operates within local laws. It also recently offered to sign “no-spy agreements” with governments that are concerned about national security.