By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
A NEW United States regulation prohibits its embassy in Nassau from doing business with local companies that utilise equipment manufactured by certain Chinese manufacturers.
On June 30, the US designated two Chinese telecommunications firms as “national security” threats. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designation means Huawei and ZTE are cut off from billions of dollars in US subsidies due to their close association with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
As a result of the move, companies in The Bahamas that provide services to the US Embassy in Nassau now have to disclose their manufacturers.
The manufacturers include Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, Hytera, Dhaka and their subsidiaries and affiliates.
US Embassy Public Affairs Officer Daniel Durazo explained that this is not unique to The Bahamas.
“The 2019 National Defense Authorisation Act (NDAA) prohibits the US government from entering into contracts with entities (ie companies or service providers) that use telecommunications equipment, systems, or services from Huawei, ZTE, Dahua, Hikvision, Hytera, or their subsidiaries and affiliates,” Mr Durazo told The Tribune.
“This NDAA rule applies to contracts made after August 13, 2020, and applies to State Department procurement in the United States and around the world, not only to the US Embassy in the Bahamas.”
The Tribune inquired about the rule after receiving a letter from the US Embassy in Nassau requesting it disclose equipment manufacturer information.
The letter read: “A new United States regulation has been implemented that potentially affects the US Embassy’s services provided by your company. We are contacting you to ask if your company utilises equipment manufactured from the following companies: Huawei, ZTE, Hikvision, Hytera, Dahua and their subsidiaries and affiliates…”
Its implications to entities throughout the country is unclear and the embassy was unable to say how many of these letters were distributed to local firms.
According to various US news agencies, Huawei and ZTE were deemed national security threats because of their ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus.
Laws in China requiring Chinese telecom vendors to support the CCP’s intelligence services mean that the CCP could use Huawei and ZTE equipment to spy on or sabotage telecom networks around the world, it is feared.
Within the US, the CCP seeks to use the companies’ equipment to surveil US citizens and conduct large-scale industrial sabotage, said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr.
“We cannot treat Huawei and ZTE as anything less than a threat to our collective security,” Mr Carr said back in June. “Nothing short of prohibiting subsidised Huawei and ZTE gear from our networks could address this serious national security threat.”
The designations ensure that federal subsidies for expanding wireless communication service across America cannot be used to purchase or support equipment from Huawei or ZTE.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has long warned of the risks of using fifth-generation wireless equipment from China’s technology companies. In addition, international consensus is growing that the security risks of using China’s technology are unacceptable, according to reports.
Security concerns recently drove the government of Greece and major Canadian wireless communication providers to take steps toward eliminating reliance on Chinese telecommunication companies, including Huawei and ZTE.
And numerous other countries, including the Czech Republic, Poland, Sweden and Estonia, have chosen trusted vendors over Huawei.