Blow for US as Brazil goes for Huawei


BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s top four telecom companies have decide not to meet with a visiting senior U.S. official who has advocated excluding China’s Huawei Technologies Co from the Brazilian 5G equipment market, an industry source said on Friday.

The carriers declined a U.S. embassy invitation to meet on Monday in Sao Paulo with Keith Krach, U.S. under secretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment, the person in contact with telecom sector executives said.

“This invitation is not compatible with free-market choices that we are used to. We should be able to freely make our best financial decisions,” the source said, requesting anonymity.

The invitation from U.S. ambassador Todd Chapman was first reported by Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, which together with the Valor Economico business daily said the companies preferred not to attend.

Telefonica Brasil SA, Grupo Oi SA, TIM Participações SA, controlled by Telecom Italia SpA and Claro, owned by Mexico’s America Movil, each control between 19% and 29% of Brazil’s wireless market.

They already use Huawei equipment in preparation for the auctioning of spectrum concessions next year in Brazil and do not support a ban on Huawei sought by the U.S. government.

The U.S. embassy did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The four carriers declined to comment.

The Trump administration has stepped up diplomatic pressure internationally to block the use of Huawei equipment, alleging that it could be used for spying by the Chinese state. Huawei has repeatedly denied being a national security risk.

“Huawei is the backbone of China’s global surveillance,” Krach wrote in an op/ed article published in August in Brazil’s O Globo newspaper.

Krach said the U.S. government and its partners were accelerating efforts to protect global economic security by restricting the involvement of Huawei in 5G networks.

“There are now more than 30 countries participating in the Clean Network,” he wrote.