Trump administration to ban agencies from directly purchasing equipment or services from Huawei

The White House is planning to take a big step Wednesday toward preventing government agencies from doing business with Huawei, according to a senior administration official.

The Trump administration is expected to release a rule Wednesday afternoon that bans agencies from directly purchasing telecom, video surveillance equipment or services from Huawei. The prohibition was mandated by Congress as part of a broader defense bill signed into law last year.

“The administration has a strong commitment to defending our nation from foreign adversaries and will fully comply with Congress on the implementation of the prohibition of Chinese telecom and video surveillance equipment, including Huawei equipment,” said Jacob Wood, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget.

The new rule, which will take effect Tuesday, also applies to a list of other telecom companies that have sparked security concerns, such as ZTE and Hikvision. In addition, the law set a deadline of August 2020 for a broader ban on federal contractors doing business with Huawei or the covered firms.

Contractors will be able to seek waivers from individual federal agencies if they do not believe their interaction with those companies poses a security threat.

The congressional mandate is separate from the Trump administration’s own efforts to rein in Huawei’s dominance in the industry.

The Commerce Department has put Huawei on a blacklist that effectively bans the export of goods to the company from the United States. U.S. chipmakers and tech firms can request waivers, and the chief executives of Google, Qualcomm, Micron, Intel and others met with President Donald Trump at the White House last month and urged the administration to issue those decisions quickly.

In addition, the White House has proposed a wide-ranging ban on American companies doing business with Huawei. Those rules have yet to be written, and the administration official did not have an update on its status.

Huawei is a telecom giant and the largest privately held company in China, but hawks on Capitol Hill and in the White House have warned of the company’s close ties to the Beijing government and the risks of surveillance.

In an interview on CNBC, Huawei chief security officer Andy Purdy defended the company’s track record. He argued that leaders in the United Kingdom and Germany had been told by U.S. officials there were no allegations of a cybersecurity threat from Huawei.

“We have tested the products of all vendors to international standards so that there’s trust through verification,” Purdy said.

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