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Attorney general thinks US should buy controlling stake in Nokia, Ericsson

Nathan Ingraham
Deputy Managing Editor
ASSOCIATED PRESS

It's no secret that the US views Huawei as a threat to national security. But the company is also playing a big role in building out 5G networks around the world, something that the US has major interests in. How to go about resolving such a conflict? If you're US Attorney general William Barr, you just have the country take controlling interest in Huawei competitors like Nokia and Ericsson.

"There are only two companies that can compete with Huawei right now: Nokia and Ericsson," Barr said in a speech (as reported by AFP) on China as an economic threat. "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."

More specifically, Barr said that there were already a few proposals being discussed that involve the US to aligning itself with Nokia and/or Ericsson through either American ownership of a controlling stake or through a "consortium or private American and allied companies."

Now, for the tape, Barr has no power to make this happen -- but it does seem plausible he'd be privy to information about any potential scenarios being discussed. It's also worth noting that such a proposal is the antithesis of free-market Republican values, but this is hardly the first thing proposed by this administration that flies in the face of those values.

While we'd be surprised to see something like this happen, it does shine a light on how worried the US government appears to be about the dominance of Chinese firms like Huawei and ZTE in the 5G networking technology field. The fact that so much of global 5G networks will rely on these companies despite the US's campaign against them is clearly troubling to the government, at the very least. Indeed, Barr made those concerns clear in his speech. "From a national security standpoint, if the industrial internet becomes dependent upon Chinese technology, China would have the ability to shut countries off from technology and equipment upon which their consumers and industries depend," he said.