In a meeting between US national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro earlier this week, the US official once again tried to dissuade Brazil from backing Huawei for 5G

In the last few years, the US has undertaken a major campaign against Huawei in markets around the world, arguing that the Chinese technology vendor is a threat to national cybersecurity and should be banned from national telecoms networks.

Brazil, as the largest economy in South America and largely reliant on Huawei technology for its 4G communications, was a major target on the US charm offensive. Then-president Donald Trump had (perhaps unsurprisingly) developed a positive relationship with Brazil’s controversial far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, leaning on their friendship to drive a wedge between the Brazilian government and Huawei.

But for the Brazilian telcos, being forced to remove and replace Hauwei equipment would have been a nightmare, with the sector warning that the move would incur substantial costs and delays to the country’s 5G rollout. 

By October 2020, the Trump Administration was moving to counter these misgivings, offering Brazil $1 billion in financing if it were to ditch their reliance on Huawei and Chinese rival ZTE.

Ultimately, however, US efforts appeared to have failed when, in February 2021, the Brazilian regulator Anatel approved rules for a 5G spectrum auction without excluding Huawei. This auction is expected to take place in August.

Nonetheless, the US is continuing its campaign against Huawei in Brazil, with a state visit from national security advisor Jake Sullivan yesterday presenting US-backed Open RAN technologies as the perfect alternative to Huawei. 

“Today Security Adviser Jake Sullivan discussed with [Brazilian communications minister] Fabio Faria the issues of cybersecurity and guarantees that all Brazilians will be able to benefit from 5G networks,” the US Embassy in Brazil wrote on Twitter.

In a separate Tweet, Faria described the meeting as ‘productive’, noting that discussions had focussed on 5G and developing Open RAN solutions, but also the impact of the ongoing semiconductor supply crisis – another tech sphere where the US finds itself in growing conflict with China. 


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