President Donald Trump has declared a national emergency to protect US computer networks from “foreign adversaries”.
The president signed an executive order effectively barring US companies from using foreign telecoms believed to pose a security risk to the country.
President Trump did not name any company specifically in the order.
However, analysts suggest it is mainly directed at Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.
The Chinese tech giant said restricting its business in the US would only hurt American consumers and companies.
Several countries, led by the US, have raised concerns in recent months that Huawei products could be used by China for surveillance
The US has been pressuring allies to shun Huawei in their next generation 5G networks.
In a separate move, the US commerce department added Huawei to its “entity list” – a move that bans the company from acquiring technology from US firms without government approval.
The moves are likely to worsen tensions between the US and China, which had already escalated this week with tariff hikes in a trade war.
Huawei has been at the epicenter of the US-China power struggle that has dominated global politics over the past year.
According to a White House statement, Mr. Trump’s order aims to “protect America from foreign adversaries who are actively and increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology infrastructure and services”.
It gives the secretary of commerce the power to “prohibit transactions posing an unacceptable risk to the national security”, the statement adds.
The move was instantly welcomed by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who said in a statement it was “a significant step toward securing America’s networks”.
The US had already restricted federal agencies from using Huawei products and has encouraged allies to shun them, while Australia and New Zealand have both blocked the use of Huawei gear in next-generation 5G mobile networks.
How has Huawei responded?
Huawei has said its work does not pose any threats and says it is independent from the Chinese government.
In a statement issued on Thursday the company said: “Restricting Huawei from doing business in the US will not make the US more secure or stronger.
“Instead, this will only serve 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.”
The statement also said “unreasonable restrictions” on Huawei raised “other serious legal issues”. Huawei has vehemently denied the allegations.
On Tuesday, its chairman Liang Hua said it was “willing to sign no-spy agreements with governments” during a meeting in London, as concerns over the security of its products used in next-generation 5G mobile networks continued to grow.
President Trump doesn’t name or single out Huawei in his executive order but the intent is clear: keep China’s national champion out of the US.
What’s more – this comes against the backdrop of an escalating trade war – and will no doubt inflame tensions between the two countries.
Huawei consistently says that if the US bans Huawei from its networks, they are the ones to lose out, not Huawei.
That’s true. Even without the US market, Huawei is likely to control 40 to 60% of the networks around the world, industry analysts say.
But what may hurt Huawei more is the US decision to put them on the “entity list” – effectively banning American suppliers from selling to the firm.
Huawei may not need the US market, but it certainly needs the key components that it gets from the US.