Citing national security, Trump rejects China Mobile’s request to sell U.S. services

Two boats bearing Chinese, US flags
A move against China Mobile may be part of a larger trade battle between the United States and China. (iStock)

The NTIA said that, following consultation with the Trump administration, it will reject an application by China Mobile requesting to offer telecom services in the United States.

“After significant engagement with China Mobile, concerns about increased risks to U.S. law enforcement and national security interests were unable to be resolved,” said David J. Redl, assistant secretary for communications and information at the U.S. Department of Commerce, in a statement. “Therefore, the Executive Branch of the U.S. government, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration pursuant to its statutory responsibility to coordinate the presentation of views of the Executive Branch to the FCC, recommends that the FCC deny China Mobile’s Section 214 license request.”

China Mobile filed the request back in 2011 but noted that it didn’t plan to sell wireless or wireline services in the United States. Instead, the Chinese provider had sought “common carrier” status, which would have allowed it to carry international voice traffic between the United States and other countries, and to interconnect that traffic with U.S. telecom networks.

“In the current national security environment, it is the view of the Executive Branch, after consultation with the US intelligence community, and after consideration of additional information submitted by the applicant, that China Mobile’s application does not serve the public interest,” the NTIA noted in its lengthy report on the topic. “To the contrary, the authorization would pose substantial, unacceptable national security and law enforcement risks.”

Bloomberg reported that a China Mobile representative had no immediate comment on the news but noted that China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said in a press briefing that the “U.S. should stop groundless speculation and intentional suppression against Chinese companies.”

The Trump administration’s stance on China Mobile follows several other recent moves against China and Chinese companies. For example, Huawei has been effectively banned from the wireless equipment and phone business in the United States, while the Trump administration moved against ZTE’s business ties with U.S. companies. However, President Trump did announce a deal to allow ZTE’s U.S. business to resume.

Still, Trump continues to threaten additional tariffs against Chinese goods, moves that hint at a broader trade war between China and the United States.