The Trump administration has repeatedly accused Chinese tech giant Huawei of engaging in illegal surveillance on behalf of Beijing, effectively banning the company from working with American businesses. However, a recent ruling by the US Commerce Department has now permitted US companies to work with Huawei on developing 5G standards.
Swedish company Ericsson and Finnish company Nokia are “best positioned to compete” with Huawei, but the West has to “pick a horse or horses” to challenge the Chinese tech giant, US Attorney General William Barr told the host of the television programme ‘Sunday Morning Futures’, Maria Bartiromo.
“In the last decade or so China has been putting on a great push to supplant us, explicitly, they wanna be the leader in all the future technologies and they want to dominate the economy,” Barr said. “So what’s at stake is the economic opportunity of our children and our grandchildren, whether we can continue to be a technological leader of the world.”
According to Barr, Ericsson and Nokia have thus been “the strongest Western competitors” in the technological sector, effectively pushing American allies to “rally around” these actors, either through “private ownership” or “state involvement”.
“Huawei has the backing of the Chinese government and all the Chinese government money,” the attorney general explained. “So just giving an example for 5G, the network facilities, then the total global addressable market is probably around $90 billion and the Chinese government has set up a fund of over one hundred billion, to subsidise it so they can go to some countries and say, hey, we’ll put this in cash free, you know, very cheap money.”
The comment came following reports that the US government could be considering the option of acquiring a stake in one of the European companies. However, Barr said that it was not up to the Justice Department to decide on whether to invest in Swedish or Finish tech giants.
The attorney general still reiterated the earlier comments of the Trump administration that the Chinese company was “not competing fairly” on the international market by “stealing” American intellectual property and “cheating” in order to overtake the United States as the technological leader.
“If they start leading in some of these fundamental, foundational technologies like 5G, which will be the platform of much of our future manufacturing in the United States, they will have a tremendous leverage of the United States,” Barr argued, adding that this will eventually create an “ultimate leverage over the West”.
The Trump administration has long accused Huawei of conducting espionage on behalf of the Chinese government, allegations which have been expressly denied by the company management and Beijing. In May 2019, Huawei was restricted from working with US businesses and prohibited from obtaining American goods and technologies. However, following a recent ruling by the US Commerce Department, American firms have now been permitted to work with the Chinese tech company on the development of standards for the fifth-generation superfast networks.