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Chancellor Angela Merkel’s lawmakers will try to sideline hawks seeking to exclude Huawei Technologies Co. from next-generation mobile networks with a motion that stops short of a full ban of the Chinese equipment maker.
Legislators in Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc will vote Tuesday on a motion with softer language than a draft by hard-liners, who want a potential Huawei ban from 5G networks, according to the text seen by Bloomberg News. Merkel has warned against a blanket veto, saying Europe’s biggest economy can’t afford to shut out the Chinese and defying calls from U.S. officials for Huawei to be excluded.
The German leader’s efforts to prevent a Huawei ban have been disrupted by resistance in her own ranks, as well as from members of her Social Democratic coalition partner. They have echoed U.S. warnings about Huawei’s ties to the Chinese Communist Party and the risk of state-sponsored espionage or sabotage. A scheduled vote on the policy late last month was delayed.
Such open dissent is uncommon in Merkel’s otherwise disciplined CDU, which was rocked on Monday when Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, her chosen successor, made a surprise announcement that she wouldn’t run as the party’s chancellor candidate and will step down as CDU leader.
The decision threw the race to succeed Merkel wide open and further eroded her already weakened authority since she announced over a year ago that she wouldn’t run for a fifth term. She has withdrawn from domestic politics and her agenda has been overshadowed by a power struggle to succeed her.
Nonetheless, the CDU-led bloc’s parliamentary whip, Michael Grosse-Broemer, said Tuesday he expects a “clear majority” for the Huawei motion, saying the draft seeks to bridge a gap with the security hawks.
“Maybe they are still not happy with this, but maybe they also see it as a possible compromise between the various positions,” Grosse-Broemer told reporters in Berlin.
Merkel has struggled to assert control of her China policy in a standoff that pits trade interests with China against security concerns raised by Washington and her own intelligence agencies.
Inside Merkel’s chancellery, senior officials believe that a ban on Huawei would be futile, since the Chinese could potentially infiltrate another supplier if they were determined to hack into 5G communications.
The U.K. and the European Union introduced policies last month that allow Huawei’s partial participation in next-generation wireless networks. Donald Trump responded by berating U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, having spent months trying to persuade the British government not to allow the Chinese company to take a role in 5G.
The draft German motion, to be voted on by the bloc’s 246 lawmakers, says 5G technology will be part of “critical infrastructure” and must be subject to the highest security standards. But more specific language on barring components from state-controlled companies is absent and it doesn’t single out China or Huawei.
“The deployment of components by a vendor can be prohibited if it’s determined that they conflict with the broad public interest, in particular the security interests, of the Federal Republic of Germany,” the draft reads.
The language is far removed from a text floated by Bundestag lawmakers led by Norbert Roettgen, chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee. Roettgen said in December that the government should have tools to block “untrustworthy” state-sponsored companies from 5G core and periphery networks, a clear reference to Huawei.
(Updates with context on Merkel succession)
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