It would be fair to say the Supply Chain Review conclusion received a less than enthusiastic response in the US, and now it appears Congress is stacking the deck for an offensive.
The House of Representatives has introduced what is known as a ‘Simple Resolution’ condemning the UK accepting attitude of the UK, Huawei effectively as an agent of the state and the Chinese Government.
Presented to the House by Congressman Michael McCaul, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney, and Representatives Ted Yoho, Mike Turner and Mike Gallagher, the Resolution denounces the UK decision to include Huawei in 5G plans, though it is not entirely clear what the end game here actually is. This Resolution could be used to force a firmer stance against the UK, a worrying sign with trade talks set to commence in the very near future.
“We are extremely disappointed that the United Kingdom seems poised to allow CCP [Chinese Communist Party] controlled Huawei to build much of their next generation 5G networks,” the politicians said in a joint statement.
“Huawei equipment is absolute poison – providing them access to any aspect of a 5G network compromises the integrity of the entire system and will result in network data being sent back to Communist Party leaders in Beijing.
“We hope the UK will reverse course on this consequential decision and work with us to build a 5G future that will not only protect our mutual interests but will safeguard the values we share.”
While the Resolution does not propose any new rules or amendments, it contains dozens of statements to paint a picture. This could be viewed as the prologue, setting the scene, creating the bad guy, before the main part of the story begins. Some of the points include:
- All Chinese companies, private and state-owned, are under the effective control of the Chinese Communist Party
- Supply Chain Review measures are not enough to ensure the security and fidelity of the United Kingdom’s 5G network
- China has a series of laws which forces Chinese companies to effectively act as the intelligence gathering arm of the Government
This document could represent the opinion of the House of Representatives and could be used as a weapon against China and the UK.
There are two key takeaways from the Supply Chain Review. Firstly, Huawei has been deemed a ‘high-risk vendor’ but can continue to operate in the UK. Secondly, ‘high-risk vendor’ equipment will be limited to a 35% share of a telcos radio inventory, while said share can only carry 35% of the total internet traffic.
While this is a position which has been welcomed in the UK, it faced fierce criticism in the US, despite President Trump staying quiet on the matter. Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton suggested the UK was handing the front door keys to the Chinese, while several has maintained the stance that the sensitive and non-sensitive parts of the network cannot be separated.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took a much more mellow approach when visiting London last week. Pompeo was not overly critical, but statements were made suggesting the UK had time to change its mind. Perhaps this is a hint that the US will continue lobbying the UK to ban Huawei while trade talks are conducted.
Looking at what this actually means is a bit more nuanced and speculative, however.
A ‘Simple Resolution’ is a legislative measure passed by one of the two House’s of Congress. As it has not been passed by both, it cannot be written into law, but it can be used to express a sentiment of the politicians in the House. This sentiment could be used to create a Committee, pave the way for a Bill to be introduced, or force policy decisions in other departments.
This Resolution is important, but unless the Senate passes a similar Resolution, its impact will be limited. In this Resolution, the politicians are effectively condemning the UK’s actions and every Chinese company as an agent of the Chinese state, therefore we suspect it wouldn’t take much to gain support in the Senate.
However, if both Houses pass the same Resolution, the US will have an official stance against every Chinese company and the UK’s adoption of Huawei technology. Some of the wording in this document makes for a potentially hyper-aggressive position against China.
As an official Resolution of Congress is a measure of the opinions of the members, it could be a powerful document. The State Department could be forced to take a much more aggressive stance against the UK in trade talks, the President could be convinced by the majority into signing some sort of executive order, or it could pave the way for much more aggressive legislation against ‘high-risk’ companies.
What is always worth remembering is that the US Constitution bans the Government from legislating against a single company, but this does look like a political preparation for a renewed assault against Huawei.
With Senator Cotton’s proposed Bill still on the floor of Congress, an official intelligence sharing ban with the UK and other countries which are deemed Huawei friendlies is still a possibility. And with the trade talks looming, the US still has a few carrots and sticks in store for the UK.
Some might have suspected this would be the end of the Huawei debate and the beginning of the UK’s 5G future, but while the US can still poke and prod politicians, the Huawei debate is still alive. It remains to be seen what impact this Resolution in the House of Representatives has, but it could be very significant.