New US-Poland 5G pact: Will it help loosen Huawei's grip on Europe?

The 5G agreement between the US and Poland comes amid a worsening trade war with China.
Written by Bojan Stojkovski, Contributor

The US and Poland have just signed a deal to strengthen cooperation on 5G technology, in a bid to challenge Chinese giant Huawei's growing influence over Europe's mobile infrastructure.

The agreement was signed on Monday by US vice president Mike Pence and Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki. 

SEE: IT pro's guide to the evolution and impact of 5G technology (free PDF)

Pence came to Warsaw to attend the World War II commemorative ceremony instead of Donald Trump, who canceled the trip at the last minute because of concerns about Hurricane Dorian.

"The leaders agreed that the development of 5G networks will bring economic benefits as well as security risks, and pledged to work closely together to advance implementation of the Prague Protocols on 5G Security to ensure that malign actors are kept out of developing our critical infrastructure." the White House stated after Pence's meeting with Polish president Andzej Duda after Pence's meeting with Polish president Andzej Duda.

Pence said the agreement would "set a vital example for the rest of Europe".

Although there is no mention of Huawei and its dispute with the US over 5G infrastructure, the joint declaration points out that "a careful and complete evaluation of 5G component and software providers is essential".

Wojciech Michnik, Eisenhower defense fellow at the NATO Defense College in Rome, said that key sentence of the declaration delivers a clear message.

"It gives us a hint: 'All countries must ensure that only trusted and reliable suppliers participate in our networks to protect them from unauthorized access or interference'. So in a way, it's quite clear on which side of the dispute Poland locates itself," Michnik told ZDNet.

The deal can also be seen as a part of a broader strategy by the Polish authorities to align the country more closely with the US, thus gaining access to the technologies they are offering, he adds.

Michal Vit, researcher at the Europeum Institute for European Policy, said the agreement is in line with Polish foreign-policy priorities.

"There's no surprise that Poland fulfills the role as the main US ally in Central and Eastern Europe," Vit told ZDNet.

"Poland doesn't see China as a strategic alternative for the central and eastern European region, despite a possible financial gain in the short term. On the other hand, the decision could strengthen Hungary's standing as the most China-friendly country in the region."

Later on Monday, Pence's chief of staff, Marc Short, did mention Huawei in a statement, calling on other nations to "ensure that only trusted providers have access to their developing networks".

READ MORE: Huawei to DoJ: We didn't steal smartphone camera patent

In a statement, Huawei responded that it opposes the "politicization of 5G technology" and that it has "provided services to Poland for decades and trusts the nation's government to make the right decisions for its citizens".

Huawei's business efforts in Poland took a hit in January this year when Polish police authorities raided their offices in Warsaw and arrested a Chinese citizen who served as Huawei's sales executive in the country.

After the arrest, he was fired by the Chinese company, and currently remains in detention, ahead of a trial on espionage charges.

In the declaration, the US and Poland add that rigorous technology evaluations should examine whether a supplier is subject to control by a foreign government, whether it has a transparent ownership structure, and whether the supplier has a record of ethical corporate behavior and is subject to a legal regime that enforces transparent corporate practices.

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