US considers restrictions on Chinese telcos

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is considering issuing an executive order that would restrict some Chinese companies’ ability to sell telecommunications equipment in the United States, two industry officials said, an action likely aimed at Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and ZTE Corp.

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President Donald Trump’s administration has already targeted Huawei and ZTE, two of the world’s major telecommunications equipment manufacturers, with a number of recent actions to restrict their businesses in the US based on national security concerns.

The news, reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal, came as Washington despatched a team to Beijing headed by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to hold talks over an ever-worsening economic relationship with China. The relationship has seen Trump threaten to impose tariffs on up to $150 billion of Chinese imports, a move that could trigger a trade war between the world’s two largest economies.

US lawmakers and the Trump administration have pressured US companies to not sell Huawei or ZTE products, saying they potentially could be used to spy on Americans. Earlier this year they pushed AT&T to drop a deal with Huawei to sell its smartphones in the US.

A White House National Security Council spokesman said “While we have no comment on individual actions, protecting critical infrastructure, including the supply chains associated with such infrastructure, is a critical part of protecting America’s national security and public safety.”

Representatives of Huawei and ZTE could not be reached immediately for comment on the possible executive action, though both have denied allegations their products are used to spy.

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