Trump extends telecom order targeting Huawei gear by one year

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday extended an executive order signed last year until May 2021, prohibiting American companies from using telecom gear and services supplied by entities that pose a threat to national security.

It continues the national emergency declared by Trump in the original May 15, 2019 executive order to secure the information and communications supply chain, which doesn’t name specific companies but is largely seen as targeting Chinese vendor Huawei.   

“The unrestricted acquisition or use in the United States of information and communications technology or services…” from firms under control or direction “foreign adversaries… continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” stated Trump in a Notice of the extension.

RELATED: Huawei CEO says further U.S. restrictions could open ‘Pandora’s Box’

Reuters reports a license set to expire Friday is also expected to be further extended by the Commerce Department, allowing U.S. companies to keep doing business with Huawei to avoid disruptions to service.

Amid larger U.S.-China trade tensions, Huawei has been the target of several U.S. actions including by the Commerce Department, which added Huawei, along with numerous affiliates, to the department’s Entity List last May. That effectively blacklisted Huawei from purchasing certain U.S.-made goods, barring American companies from selling certain products or tech to the vendor without a license, though the Commerce Department has allowed Huawei to continue some business.  

Huawei is one of the largest smartphone makers in the world and telecom network equipment vendors, though in the U.S. mainly counts smaller and rural providers as customers.

The Commerce Department previously granted extensions to the Temporary General License, which Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in November had said allows “carriers to continue to service customers in some of the most remote areas of the United States who would otherwise be left in the dark.”

 RELATED: Huawei rip & replace remains priority amid pandemic

Some U.S. carriers are facing the task developing a strategy to ‘rip and replace’ existing telecom gear from Huawei and Chinese vendor ZTE, a complex and expensive undertaking further challenged by the COVID-19 global health crisis. The FCC last fall voted unanimously to ban service providers from tapping the $8.5 billion Universal Service Fund to buy telecom gear from companies deemed national security risks, specifically naming Huawei and ZTE.

Huawei, which has continuously denied U.S. allegations that it could be used by the Chinese government to engage in activities like spying or sabotage, filed a lawsuit against the FCC’s designation as a national security threat.

RELATED: Huawei, ZTE fight against FCC national security threat classification

In March, echoing the FCC action, President Trump signed legislation prohibiting carriers from using federal subsidies to buy telecom equipment from companies deemed national security risks, including Huawei and ZTE, and authorizes $1 billion to help smaller providers with costs of the rip-and-replace mandate.