As Huawei is set to receive another 90-day reprieve from US authorities’ ban on its product, TahawulTech.com secured an exclusive interview with Andy Purdy, US Chief Security Officer at Huawei to discuss the US government’s treatment of the Chinese ICT company.
2019 has been an eventful year for Huawei – back in May, the Trump administration blacklisted the company citing concerns over electronic espionage. The initial executive order explained how the “unrestricted acquisition or use” of technology made by “foreign adversaries” would pose a risk to the US national security.
However, the issue is much more complicated than that. For over a year, the US government and China have been locked in an extenuating trade war that has seen both countries introducing more and more tariffs on imports. Nonetheless, as things progressed, with the two countries now working to complete a “phase one” agreement that would see China buy US farm goods and address intellectual property protections, Huawei’s situation hasn’t improved.
Shortly after the initial executive order, the US government granted the Chinese company a temporary license from the United States Commerce Department, followed by a second one in August. Just yesterday, the US department granted a third one over fears that rural carrier would be severely affected as they heavily depend on Huawei’s 3G and 4G networks.
However, in a statement, Huawei explained the Temporary General License won’t have “substantial impact” on them either way, and it doesn’t alleviate the fact they continue to be “treated unfairly.”
In agreement with today’s statement, Andy Purdy, Chief Security Officer in the US for Huawei, told TahawulTech.com that the US restrictions don’t actually hurt Huawei half as much as they do US companies.
He explained that although the US is the largest market in the world, Huawei makes “minimal revenue from the United States.”
He added, “The primary impact is not on Huawei. The restrictions actually have a greater impact on the United States than they do on Huawei. The US Commerce Department entity list has seen 130 companies applying for licenses, and yet they still can’t sell nonstrategic parts to Huawei. That amounts on average to a loss of about 11 billion US dollars per year, which translates to probably over 40 thousand jobs directly at risk in the US.”
Purdy blames the US government for their lack of communications in the matter, saying the Trump administration has not been willing to talk to them “for quite some time now”.
Although Purdy is reluctant to say the trade war is the only issue behind the restrictions, and he doesn’t think these issues would disappear were the trade war to be resolved, he believes the US would be much more open to communication if it wasn’t for their relationship with the Chinese government.
“Obviously the US/China trade talks and how they may be progressing is certainly one of the issues, especially as it looks like the US government wants to use the restrictions on Huawei as a ‘bargaining chip’ for potential pressure on the Chinese government. However, the bottom line for us is that we want to talk directly to the US government about effective risk mitigation mechanisms that can address the risks, the same way that Nokia and Ericsson are allowed to do business in the US despite their connections with the Chinese government.”
Purdy’s remarks on the US government using Huawei as a bargaining chip are not unfounded. Back in May, President Trump addressed the press on the Huawei issues explaining that the Chinese ICT company could be included “in some form, some part of a trade deal.”
Trump’s approach to Huawei has been a very controversial one. Although the President has said multiple times the reason behind the restrictions is the possibility of security threats from Huawei, stating the company could be part of the trade deal discredits the security motive behind the restrictions.
Purdy, who has an extensive background working for the US government itself, is advocating for global uniform standards that can help set the guidelines for effective risk management. A trust through verification approach, he explained, would ensure that telecom and mobile operators, as well as equipment vendors, undergo independent testing that would remove any risk.
“What I am personally recommending, and what Huawei itself is recommending, is to implement resilient global uniform standards that can help set the guidelines for effective risk management. Most recently we have seen it reflected in Germany’s decision to lay out an assurance framework that applies to all vendors and that will allow Huawei to compete for 5G. The European Union has also recently done a 5G risk assessment which saw them lay out a very comprehensive approach based on standards and best practices.”
The European Union, as Purdy mentioned, announced a risk assessment of 5G networks security in October, which will see them produce by the end of the year “a toolbox of possible responses” for managing and mitigating the risks associated with 5G. The EU report published in October identified the main cyber threats and actors, the most sensitive assets, key vulnerabilities and a number of strategic risks.
The US, on the other hand, seem to be lacking a comprehensive approach to address cybersecurity, and Purdy believes that until they develop one, things won’t get any better for Huawei.
“The US government seem to be spending a lot of time talking about Huawei and other Chinese companies, but at the end of the day blocking Huawei is not going to make America any safer. That requires the kind of measures that we’ve been advocating, the kind of measures we have seen in Europe. You can’t just say you don’t trust a specific country or company, there have to be mechanisms in place to demonstrate whether any product, servicing or installation is subject to undue influence by any foreign government.”