President Donald Trump on Wednesday declared a national emergency over threats against American technology, the White House said.
The move, done via executive order, is expected to precede a ban on U.S. firms doing business with the Chinese telecommunications company Huawei, though the order does not refer to Huawei directly.
The order authorizes the Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, in consultation with other top officials, to block transactions that involve information or communications technology that “poses an unacceptable risk to the national security of the United States.”
The announcement has been under discussion for a year. It comes as the U.S and China remain locked in a trade dispute and could escalate tensions between the world’s two largest economies.
The order has been opposed by small rural carriers, who continued to rely on Huawei equipment even after it was largely dropped by the larger telecommunications companies.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote that the administration will “protect America from foreign adversaries who are actively and increasingly creating and exploiting vulnerabilities in information and communications technology infrastructure and services in the United States.”
The Trump administration has pushed allies around the world not to adopt the company’s next generation 5G network technology, which American officials have warned could be used for spying by the Chinese. Those efforts have had mixed results in Europe, where several countries declined to stop doing business with the company.
Huawei has forcefully denied allegations that it is not independent from the Chinese government.
In recent months, the U.S. has taken a number of steps against the firm.
In January, the Department of Justice announced a slew of charges against two units of the company, including for stealing trade secrets from T-Mobile USA. And both Huawei and ZTE, another Chinese technology firm, were barred from most U.S. government contract work by the 2019 Defense Authorization Act.
In December, Canadian authorities arrested Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou to serve an extradition request from the U.S. government, which has alleged that the company defrauded several banks by concealing payments from Iran in violation of sanctions against that country.
Huawei did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the executive order. Earlier Wednesday, David Wang, an executive at the company, told The Wall Street Journal that such an order would be misguided.