Trump mulling January order to block Chinese companies Huawei, ZTE from US

The executive order, under consideration for months, would declare a national emergency over threat posed by Chinese telecom equipment

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File Photo: US President Donald Trump

File Photo: US President Donald Trump (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The Trump administration may be poised to issue an executive order declaring a national emergency which would prohibit U.S. companies from purchasing Chinese telecommunications equipment.

The executive order has been under consideration for nearly eight months, and will very likely target Chinese telecom companies like Huawei, ZTE and possibly others, according to a Reuters report.

The report says the order may be signed in the first weeks of the New Year.

In the wake of the U.S. Department of Justice issuing indictments for alleged Chinese hacking operations, and amid the controversy over the arrest of Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada, an order banning all U.S. businesses from purchasing Chinese telecom devices would be a major escalation in the ongoing U.S.-China trade war, which is ostensibly still in the middle of a 90 day armistice.

The report cites three sources close to the administration who have confirmed the existence of the order. If signed it would invoke the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and call for the Commerce Department to immediately prohibit U.S. businesses from purchasing telecom equipment from companies that allegedly pose national security risks.

The executive order may also seek to compel U.S. firms to abandon Chinese telecom equipment already in use, which would be a controversial move that would almost certainly draw legal opposition from certain industries.

The order currently does not specifically name Huawei or ZTE, but the text has not yet been finalized, according to Reuters.

Just last week, U.S. top counterintelligence official, Bill Evanina, warned U.S. businesses and the general public about the threat of Chinese espionage capabilities via telecom devices. This is an indication that the U.S. intelligence community is in step with the administration on this issue and would very likely support an executive order banning Huawei and ZTE from the U.S. market.

Many U.S. lawmakers would also likely be supportive of the measure, especially if it targets ZTE, which was given a reprieve from severe penalties by the Trump administration, despite egregious sanctions violations, bad business practices, and being a threat to U.S. national security.

Another recent report from CNBC says that a new round of face-to-face trade talks between U.S. and Chinese trade officials is scheduled for Jan. 7 in Beijing.

In Taiwan, a ban on government purchases of 4G equipment from Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE was introduced five years ago and is still in place. Recently, following a report calling Huawei a "Trojan Horse" in Taiwan, some legislators have suggested a complete ban on Chinese telecom products in all government offices for all employees.