US cautions Britain over Huawei

24 January, 2020 12:00 AM printer

DAVOS: The United States cautioned Britain ahead of a decision by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on what role Huawei will have in 5G telecommunications networks that Washington still had significant concerns about the Chinese telecoms behemoth. In the first big test of Brexit Britain’s foreign policy, Johnson has so far resisted intense pressure from President Donald Trump’s administration to block Huawei, which the United States fears could compromise British secrets.

Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, denies it is a vehicle for Chinese intelligence and says the United States wants to ban it because no U.S. company can offer the same range of 5G technology at a competitive price, report agencies.

After a public disagreement between U.S. and British ministers in Davos over taxes on digital services, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he would be meeting with British finance minister on Saturday on Huawei.

“Let me just say again, it’s a complicated issue,” Mnuchin said. “We’ve made very clear that it relates to all of the critical areas that we have significant concerns. But again, there’s ongoing discussion on these issues.”  Britain is expected to make a final call on how to deploy Huawei equipment in its 5G networks later this month.

In what some have compared to the Cold War arms race, the United States is worried that 5G dominance would give any global competitor such as China an advantage Washington is not ready to accept.

That puts Johnson on the spot with the United Kingdom’s closest security ally just as he seeks to negotiate post-Brexit trade deals with both the European Union and the United States - and juggle conflicting EU and U.S. policy on Iran.

Britain wants a trade deal with the United States but will still impose a digital service tax on the revenue of companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon, business minister Andrea Leadsom said on Thursday.