White House seeks delay on Huawei ban for govt contractors

WASHINGTON • The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has asked Congress for more time to phase in a ban on federal contracts with firms doing business with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies.

The ban - which falls under a defence law passed last year - is part of a multi-faceted push against Huawei, the world's largest telecoms network gear maker, which the US has accused of espionage and stealing intellectual property.

Huawei has repeatedly denied that it is controlled by the Chinese government, military or intelligence services.

It has filed a lawsuit against the US government over the curbs.

The defence law, called the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA), places a broad ban on the use of federal funds to buy products from Huawei, citing national security concerns.

It includes a ban on direct federal purchases of Huawei equipment, which will take effect this year.

But the White House said the government needed two more years to work out rules for another part of the law, which requires third-party suppliers and contractors to restrict their purchases and uses of Huawei equipment.

 
 
 
 

"This is about ensuring that companies which do business with the US government or receive federal grants and loans have time to extricate themselves from doing business with Huawei and other Chinese tech companies listed in the NDAA," OMB spokesman Jacob Wood said in a statement.

Acting OMB director Russell Vought asked congressional leaders and Vice-President Mike Pence for the delay in a letter, first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

He said a delay would "ensure the effective implementation of the prohibition without compromising desired security objectives" and that there would be a dramatic reduction in the number of contractors able to sell to the US government without any delays.

Mr Vought also asked that restrictions begin in four years, rather than two. The delay would give government contractors "additional time to think through the associated potential impacts and possible solutions", he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2019, with the headline 'White House seeks delay on Huawei ban for govt contractors'. Print Edition | Subscribe