Trump signs order aimed at protecting US networks from Chinese tech

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President Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order declaring a “national emergency” that would empower his administration to block foreign tech companies from doing business in the U.S. if they are deemed a national security threat.

The order does not name any countries or companies, but the administration has launched a global campaign to keep the Chinese telecom Huawei from helping U.S. allies develop next-generation wireless infrastructures. U.S. officials have argued that Huawei is inextricably-linked to the governing Chinese Communist Party and could allow the country to spy on nations where its hardware is present.

The White House’s order targets transactions that pose a threat to national security or risk the potential for economic sabotage against U.S. companies and infrastructure.

The order will empower the Department of Commerce to block transactions that it deems to be a threat to national security.{mosads}

“This Executive Order addresses the threat posed by foreign adversaries to the nation’s information and communications technology and services supply chain,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in a statement. “Under President Trump’s leadership, Americans will be able to trust that our data and infrastructure are secure.”

The intelligence committee and the Department of Homeland Security will be responsible for assessing threats from foreign companies to the U.S. tech sector.

A senior administration official dodged the question of whether the executive order is meant to target Chinese telecommunications companies such as Huawei, saying in a call with reporters that “we’re concerned about all threats to the safety and security of the American people, but the executive order is company and country agnostic.”

“It is meant to be forward looking for an industry that is transformative in telecommunications,” the official added.

Senior administration officials told reporters that the Commerce Department will write rules implementing the order over the next five months. The order will not be retroactive but will apply to any transaction after the executive order was signed.

Huawei’s equipment is in high demand in many countries because it is relatively cheap. A number of rural wireless providers in the U.S. also rely on its hardware.

The senior officials stressed that the order represented Trump’s commitment to “protecting the security of our nation.”

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai “applauded” the move, saying it would “safeguard the communications supply chain.”

“Given the threats presented by certain foreign companies’ equipment and services, this is a significant step toward securing America’s networks,” Pai said in a statement. “When it comes to our national security, we cannot afford to make risky choices and just hope for the best. We must have a clear-eyed view of the threats that we face and be prepared to do what is necessary to counter those threats. Today’s Executive Order does just that.” 

Prior to the order being signed, senior Huawei officials told The Hill they would “welcome” the U.S. banning technology from countries that pose a national security risk.

“Making America safer from a national security perspective, we welcome it,” Andy Purdy, the chief technology officer for Huawei Technologies USA, told The Hill in an interview.

Trump has been considering signing this type of order over the last year. When asked why it took this long, an administration official said that “these things just take time, the document was recently ready for the presidential signature, and it just so happened that now was that time.”

Updated at 5:44 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Wilbur Ross

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