Europe must maintain own course after US blacklisted Huawei, Germany says

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte give a joint press conference in Berlin on 16 May, 2019. [EPA-EFE/OMER MESSINGER]

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s powerful BDI industry association distanced themselves on Thursday (16 May) from the US government’s decision to put Chinese telecom equipment giant Huawei Technologies on a blacklist.

Citing national security concerns, Donald Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday that is expected to bar US imports of equipment produced by Huawei. The US Commerce Department said Huawei would also be forbidden to buy from US companies, some of which produce computer chips Huawei needs for its own products.

China slammed the US move and threatened to take steps to protect its companies, in a further test of ties as the economic heavyweights clash over trade.

“Restricting Huawei from doing business in the US will not make the US more secure or stronger. Instead, this will serve only to limit the US to inferior, yet more expensive, alternatives, leaving the US lagging behind in 5G deployment, and eventually harming the interests of US companies and consumers,” Huawei said in a statement.

It added it remained “committed to the EU, and aim to foster dialogue and to bring stakeholders together on relevant digital issues.”

Merkel, addressing a press conference in Berlin alongside Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, said companies that meet established safety criteria could take part in tenders for building Germany’s 5G network. Rutte also said the Netherlands would not exclude any companies in advance of 5G tenders.

The BDI, the federation of German industries, said “Europe needs to maintain its own course”. It added that the EU would decide independently which companies it would allow to build the next-generation 5G network infrastructure.

“Europe must not be dragged into the trade dispute between China and the United States,” BDI added.

Germany in March set tough rules for vendors supplying telecoms network equipment, but stopped short of singling out Huawei for special treatment due to concerns over its ties to the Chinese government.

The BDI urged the German government and the European Commission to stick to the planned auction procedure and quickly agree joint security standards. So far, the Commission has not advised member states to avoid using Huawei’s 5G technology.

“German industry quickly needs legal and planning certainty in 5G expansion,” the BDI said. It called for Europe-wide coordination on security specifications, which would be independent of equipment manufacturers.

Huawei, a global leader in 5G technology, said it wanted to pursue dialogue with Washington.

“We are ready and willing to engage with the US government, and come up with effective measures to ensure product security,” it said.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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