The US and the EU have put heavy diplomatic pressure on the government of Malaysia, urging it to bar Chinese networking equipment vendor Huawei from its state-owned 5G network, according to the Financial Times.
Letters from the US ambassador to the country, Brian McFeeters, and from the head of the EU delegation to Malaysia, Michalis Rokas, warned of potential legal problems and national security issues, if the country succumbs to what the Financial Times described as heavy lobbying by Huawei.
“Senior officials in Washington agree with my view that upending the existing model would undermine the competitiveness of new industries, stall 5G growth in Malaysia, and harm Malaysia’s business-friendly image internationally,” wrote McFeeters, according to the Financial Times.
“Allowing untrusted suppliers in any part of the network also subjects Malaysia’s infrastructure to national security risks.”
The prompt for the letters seems to have been a decision by Malaysia to re-examine its decision selecting Ericsson as the sole prime contractor for the 5G network — that company had been awarded a $2.5 billion tender by the government.
Rokas’ letter, according to the report, said that European businesses investing overseas appreciate straightforward policy decisions, and expressed displeasure at the possibility of a switch to Huawei.
“[Any change would] likely impact negatively and significantly the contractual terms agreed upon at the time of the launch of the open tender,” Rokas wrote.
The diplomatic pressure reported by the Financial Times is part of the ongoing telecom policy dispute between the US and China, centered on Huawei. Citing national security concerns over Huawei’s close ties to the Chinese government, successive US administrations have enforced a ban on that company’s equipment, and have urged other countries to follow suit.
EU member states, while initially resistant to the Trump administration’s calls for boycott, have begun to turn against Huawei in recent years, with France applying pressure to local telecom companies, and Germany reportedly considering following the US, UK and several other nations in officially barring Huawei from its national networks.
The US has even moved to enact a law mandating that the State Department monitor allies’ use of equipment from companies like Huawei or ZTE — the Countering Untrusted Telecommunications Abroad Act passed the house in September 2022 and is now under consideration by the Senate.