President Donald Trump has signed an executive order granting the US federal government the power to stop US companies from buying foreign telecommunications equipment that's considered a national security risk.
The executive order uses the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to implement the ban, and it applauds the concept of “an open investment climate”, saying “openness must be balanced by the need to protect our country against critical national security threats”.
The order gives the US Secretary of Commerce the power to decide what is a threat and doesn't explicitly name any company as a risk, but after months of speculation and reporting, we can assume it's meant to box in China-based Huawei, which the Trump Administration and some US lawmakers have claimed is a security risk. Huawei has refuted these claims, insinuating this is all an effort to stop its international growth.
Earlier this year, the heads the FBI, the CIA, and the NSA issued warnings, asking Americans to not use Huawei or ZTE phones. It has also been in discussion with allies in an attempt to get them to ditch Huawei telecom equipment. Although US intelligence agencies have shown no public evidence of a threat, they've claimed that China’s government could compel Huawei to spy on Americans using backdoors in their equipment.
Mind you, the US and China are two of the world’s largest economies, and they've been imposing trade tariffs on each other amid rising tensions. Let's also not forget that the US Justice Department recently charged Huawei and its CFO with several crimes, including obstruction of justice and theft of technology. It said Huawei stole phone testing technology from T-Mobile, and the FBI said it refuses to respect the laws of the US.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who President Trump appointed, has released a statement commending the order. “Protecting America’s communications networks is vital to our national, economic, and personal security,” he said. “I therefore applaud the President for issuing this executive order."