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Angela Merkel Intervenes to Allow Huawei Access to German Networks

German Chancellor Angela Merkel gestures as she attends a news conference following the Hesse state election in Berlin, Germany, October 29, 2018. (Hannibal Hanschke/Reuters)

Germany will allow Huawei access to its 5G networks despite a U.S. pressure campaign, spearheaded by FCC chairman Ajit Pai, to block the Chinese tech giant from interacting with allies’ data networks.

“Essentially our approach is as follows: We are not taking a pre-emptive decision to ban any actor, or any company,” government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference Monday, as Germany’s Federal Network Agency plans to release an in-depth “security catalogue” on compliance criteria for 5G networks in the coming days. The announcement confirmed a report by German business newspaper Handelsblatt, which stated that a review of the current draft of security requirements permits Huawei to provide 5G services in Germany.

Handelsblatt also reports that the decision to include Huawei came from the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, due to fears that exclusion would damage the country’s relationship with China.

Merkel’s office, in partnership with the Ministry of Economic Affairs, also removed a clause from a 5G government policy paper that suggested only “trusted suppliers” should be given access to the network.

The decision comes after heavy pressure from the U.S. to urge international allies to resist partnerships with Huawei over fears of espionage, fraud, and intellectual property theft. In January, the Justice Department indicted the Chinese firm after allegations of theft and conspiracy.

“The criminal activity in this indictment goes back ten years and goes all the way to the top of the company,” said former acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker at a press conference announcing the charges.

In May, President Trump blacklisted Huawei from doing business with American firms.

Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and other U.S. allies have already moved to block Huawei from accessing their networks, while the U.K. has had a political debate over the inclusion of the company in the wake of the rollout of 5G technology.

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