Trump appears to scale back threats of scuppering trade deal if Britain opts for Huawei's 5G network

Gabriella Swerling
Huawei  - Huawei /Huawei

Donald Trump appears to have scaled back his threats that involving Huawei in Britain's 5G network could scupper a trade deal with the US.

A read-out of a telephone call between the US President and Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday night contained no reference to the President's warnings about the Chinese firm being allowed access to Britain's digital infrastructure.

The US administration has previously told allies not to allow the Chinese tech giant, Huawei, to form part of their 5G networks, claiming it would be a security risk – a claim that the company vehemently denies.

However in a statement released by the White House on Friday evening after the call, a spokesman said: "The two leaders discussed important regional and bilateral issues, including working together to ensure the security of our telecommunications networks."

US officials have privately rejected the idea that a free trade agreement between the UK and US is contingent on Mr Johnson blocking Huawei's access to the 5G network.

Meanwhile, following a breakfast meeting with the Chancellor the US Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said in a Q&A session at Chatham House on Sunday morning that discussions surrounding the tech giant and security were ongoing. However he warned that it was "critical" that infrastructure is protected.

"If you look at the role of technology, it is critical that we have infrastructure that is protected,” he said.

"And we have important relationships, and I think what's clear is for the role of government and the role of national security issues and the role of defence, we want to make sure our infrastructures are protected.

"And I think on a broader basis... as more and more things are connected to the network and to the grid, these national security issues go beyond the traditional aspects and go into various different aspects.

"I think the real issue for us is making sure that the networks and infrastructure are properly protected."

Asked whether or not a deal between the UK and Huawei in rolling out its 5G network would cause “major upset” Mr Mnuchin responded: “We are in active discussions with the UK government and others about Huawei, again Huawei is a complicated issue.” 

Asked about the challenges brought about by China and technology, he added that the world has been dealing with the “enormous impact” of technology…[which has] changed the world in ways we could have never fully anticipated” since the post-war period. 

“I think, like any other relationship, there can be areas where we cooperate  and areas where we compete, areas where we agree and areas where we don't agree..... that's managing a relationship. It's a different political system. We like our political system, they have their political system...but it's important as the two largest economies to be able to work together.” 

In July last year, The Sunday Telegraph revealed that President Trump’s negotiators threatened there would be no US-UK trade deal  in the wake of Brexit if Britain did not fall into line over China and Huawei. 

Last year, the US imposed trade restrictions on Huawei over concerns about the company's security and ties to the Chinese government.

Allegations that their telecommunications equipment could be used to spy on people has been repeatedly denied by the tech giant.

A final decision on Britain using Huawei for its 5G network is under review by the National Security Council of senior ministers and is widely expected next week.