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Donald Trump won't use Huawei ban as trade war bargaining chip, US official Robert Strayer says

Stuart Lau in Brussels

A senior US State Department official for cyber policies said US President Donald Trump would not relax the ban on Huawei Technologies in exchange for a better trade deal with China.

The US has been "making progress" in private discussions with European officials over stricter rules for next generation 5G mobile technology, Robert Strayer, deputy assistant secretary of state for cyber and international communications and information policy, told the South China Morning Post on Friday.

His remarks came a day after the Chinese tech giant's CEO Ren Zhengfei said Huawei would be willing to exclusively license its 5G technology to a US company to create a level playing field for competitors.

"Recently President Trump has said that he will not give business to Huawei in the US. It's not part of the negotiation," Strayer said in an interview in Brussels.

Asked if that would be the case in all circumstances, he replied: "Correct."

Robert Strayer (shown in February) is US deputy assistant secretary of state for cyber and international communications and information policy. Photo: Reuters alt=Robert Strayer (shown in February) is US deputy assistant secretary of state for cyber and international communications and information policy. Photo: Reuters

Huawei, the world's largest maker of mobile network infrastructure equipment, faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with China's government. It has denied US-led allegations that its 5G equipment could be used for spying.

5G is the next generation of high-speed mobile technology and aims to provide faster data speeds and more bandwidth to carry growing levels of web traffic. For its part, Huawei is seen as one of the leading names in the development of 5G infrastructure.

In May, Trump floated the idea that Huawei could "possibly be included" in deal to end trade war.

Strayer was speaking on the sidelines of the EU-Asia Connectivity forum, which the European Union held in conjunction with Japan in a move that is widely interpreted as countering China's Belt and Road Initiative.

The US has secured cooperation from Poland and Romania in having stricter rules regulating cybersecurity issues relating to 5G technology.

But in March, the European Commission shunned US calls to ban Huawei from 5G networks, calling instead for tougher rules.

The UK, France and Germany look increasingly unlikely to impose a blanket ban on Huawei, according to diplomatic sources.

"We want all countries, and certainly large economies as well, to adopt security standards that protect their people, and protect the important economic relations that we have with those countries and as well as certainly protect the security relationships that we have both with them directly and through Nato," Strayer said.

"We are not asking for them to have outright bans on Huawei," he said. "Our position is that countries should adopt security standards that would protect them."

He called it a "real sign of success" that "everyone is talking about the importance of having supply chain security in Europe".

"I think that will certainly be part of what they implement in their own EU security standards," he added.

Earlier in the forum, Sprayer had a brief spat over Huawei with the Chinese government delegate on the panel.

Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at the EU-Asia Connectivity forum in Brussels on Thursday. Photo: AFP alt=Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at the EU-Asia Connectivity forum in Brussels on Thursday. Photo: AFP

Guo Xuejun, deputy director general of international affairs at the foreign ministry, assured diplomats and business leaders from all over Europe that Huawei pledged to shut any potential back doors, which Western governments say is a loophole that would allow data held by Huawei to be compromised by Chinese intelligence.

But Strayer, in the interview, dismissed the idea.

"We don't think something signed by Huawei itself would have any meaning because the ultimate power here is the Chinese Communist Party," he said.

"They would dictate whether or not Huawei takes actions that are adverse to the interest of people around the world."

This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.