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Trump order clears way for barring Huawei from U.S. telecommunications networks

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order declaring a national emergency and barring U.S. companies from using telecommunications equipment made by firms posing a national security risk, paving the way for a ban on doing business with ChinaÔÇÖs Huawei Technologies Co.

The executive order invokes the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which gives the president the authority to regulate commerce in response to a national emergency that threatens the United States. The order directs the Commerce Department, working with other government agencies, to draw up a plan for enforcement within 150 days.

The order, which has been under review for more than a year, is aimed at protecting the supply chain from ÔÇ£foreign adversaries to the nationÔÇÖs information and communications technology and services supply chain,ÔÇØ said Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

ÔÇ£Under President TrumpÔÇÖs leadership, Americans will be able to trust that our data and infrastructure are secure,ÔÇØ he said.

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Trump was expected to take action on the long-awaited proposal this week. The order does not specifically name any country or company, but U.S. officials have previously labeled Huawei a ÔÇ£threatÔÇØ and actively lobbied allies to not using Huawei network equipment in next generation 5G networks.

The executive order comes at a delicate time in relations between China and the United States as the worldÔÇÖs two largest economies ratchet up tariffs in a battle over what U.S. officials call ChinaÔÇÖs unfair trade practices.

Washington believes equipment made by Huawei could be used by the Chinese state to spy. Huawei, which has repeatedly denied the allegations, did not immediately comment.

The United States has been actively pushing other countries not to use HuaweiÔÇÖs equipment in next-generation 5G networks that it calls ÔÇ£untrustworthy.ÔÇØ In August, Trump signed a bill that barred the U.S. government itself from using equipment from Huawei and another Chinese provider, ZTE Corp.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai, who has called Huawei a threat to U.S. security, said Wednesday that ÔÇ£given the threats presented by certain foreign companiesÔÇÖ equipment and services, this is a significant step toward securing AmericaÔÇÖs networks.ÔÇØ

The order directs the director of U.S. National Intelligence to produce an assessment by late June on the risks to the United States and critical infrastructure ÔÇ£from information and communications technology or services designed, developed, manufactured, or supplied by persons owned by, controlled by, or subject to the jurisdiction or direction of a foreign adversary.ÔÇØ

In January, U.S. prosecutors charged two Huawei units in Washington state, saying they conspired to steal T-Mobile US Inc trade secrets, and also charged Huawei and its chief financial officer with bank and wire fraud on allegations that the company violated sanctions against Iran.

The FCC in April 2018 voted to advance a proposal to bar the use of a $9 billion government fund to purchase equipment or services from companies that pose a security threat to U.S. communications networks.

The FCC voted unanimously to deny China Mobile LtdÔÇÖs bid to provide U.S. telecommunications services last week and said it was reviewing similar prior approvals held by China Unicom and China Telecom Corp.

The issue has taken on new urgency as U.S. wireless carriers rollout 5G networks.

While the big wireless companies have already cut ties with Huawei, small rural carriers continue to rely on both Huawei and ZTE switches and other equipment because they tend to be cheaper.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Tom Brown

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