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5G bosses to meet with Merkel as US circles


Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

The CEOs of Ericsson and Nokia will meet German chancellor Angela Merkel next week, two government sources said yesterday, amid debate in Berlin over how best to regulate foreign providers of telecoms equipment.

No further details were immediately available on the talks, which come amid calls from some lawmakers to ban China's Huawei, the global leader in telecoms networks, on national security grounds.

Nokia of Finland is the second largest telecoms equipment supplier, followed by Ericsson of Sweden.

The move comes after US attorney general William Barr on Thursday stressed the threat posed by Huawei Technologies and said the United States and its allies should consider investing in Nokia and Ericsson to counter the Chinese company's dominance in next-generation 5G telecoms technology.

Mr Barr said there had been some proposals that concerns about Huawei "could be met by the United States aligning itself with Nokia and/or Ericsson, through American ownership of a controlling stake, either directly or through a consortium of private American and allied companies".

"Putting our large market and financial muscle behind one or both of these firms would make it a far more formidable competitor and eliminate concerns over its staying power, or their staying power," Mr Barr said in a speech in Washington. "We and our closest allies certainly need to be actively considering this approach."

5G networks are at the centre of a dispute over technology between the US and China as they are expected to host a range of critical functions, from driverless vehicles to smart electric grids and military communications, underscoring their importance to national security.

The US has blacklisted Huawei and is in the midst of a worldwide campaign to convince allies to ban the Chinese giant from their 5G networks, alleging its equipment could be used by Beijing for spying - which Huawei denies.

Sweden's minister for energy and digital development Anders Ygeman said potential US interest in Ericsson made sense, given that no US company offers a full suite of 5G products, but he stressed the firm's importance for Swedish business.

"Clearly, there is both a strong Swedish and European interest in being able to continue to lead technological development. Ericsson is important both for jobs and business in Sweden but also as a technology leader," he said.

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US government investments in public companies are rare except in bailouts to save ailing firms and jobs, and even more so concerning foreign companies.


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