Huawei says it is looking to facilitate a "deeper, mutual understanding" with the US government despite remaining on the security naughty step, and is continuing to spend millions lobbying American officials in areas such as broadband and mobile technology.
According to the latest lobbying disclosures from the US Senate, Huawei Technologies USA Inc spent $1.06m in the three months to the end of June on issues related to the Leading Infrastructure For Tomorrows America Act and the Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, both of which deal with the rollout of broadband infrastructure.
In Q1 2021, Huawei spent $180,000 on areas described as "defence and national security issues" and "general trade" along with other legislation that deals with the rollout of telecoms networks and personal data.
That means that this year alone Huawei has spent $1.24m schmoozing US officials – more than double the $470,000 spent over the whole of 2020. If the current level of activity continues, this year's spending is almost on course to match the $2.99m Huawei spent in 2019.
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Coincidentally, in May 2019, President Trump signed an executive order that led to the banning of the use of telecom gear made by "high risk" vendors by US companies, particularly kit made by Huawei, which had already been shunned by US government agencies.
Later that year, then Federal Communication Commission chairman Ajit Pai wrote about how the FCC is taking major steps "to improve the security of [its] networks" stateside, in particular "preserving the integrity of the equipment and services that are distributed throughout the network."
He warned: "The concern is that hostile foreign actors could use hidden 'backdoors' to our networks to spy on us, steal from us, harm us with malware and viruses, or otherwise exploit our networks. And there are mounting reasons to believe that the Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE pose an unacceptable risk to US national security."
This – along with other political intervention – led to Huawei and its tech being blocklisted coupled with a "rip and replace" federal programme mandating that US carriers remove it from existing infrastructure.
Last July, the UK government issued a wholesale ban against UK carriers using Huawei’s 5G equipment, saying networks must replace existing equipment by 2027. The move was prompted by fears surrounding Huawei's long-term ability to source the essential semiconductors it relies on. This was itself caused by US sanctions that prevented US suppliers from selling components to Huawei, which the US claims was due to national security concerns about Huawei's perceived closeness to the Chinese government. Huawei has always denied wrongdoing.
Asked to comment on the lobbying dollars, a spokesman for Huawei USA said: "Huawei has recently entered into agreements with several government relations partners. We hope for these firms to facilitate a deeper, mutual understanding between Huawei and the US government.
"We expect each firm to register and identify themselves as a partner within the required timeframe – as Huawei is compliant with laws and regulations in the 170+ countries where it operates, and maintains strict business compliance guidelines for employees and business partners." ®