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US National Security Strategy to Ensure its Technological Advantages in the International Competition and the Impact on Brazil Regarding 5G

por Ericson Scorsim

out 28, 2020

Ericson Scorsim. Lawyer and Consultant in Communication Law. Ph.D. in Law from the University of São Paulo (USP). Author of the Communications Law Collection.

The United States government has passed its national strategy for emerging and critical technologies. The goal is to ensure the United States’ leadership in emerging and critical technologies. Thus, it seeks to promote primary innovation for national security in research and development. Also, another strategic goal is to protect the competitive technological advantages of the United States.

In this sense, it wants to engage the private sector in cooperation with the government sector. Ultimately, the strategic national security goal is to advance the United States’ influence in the context of hypercompetition among countries.  The priority actions for the promotion of primary national security innovation are: the development of a global workforce, attracting and retaining inventors and innovators; stimulating the use of private capital and private experience to build and innovate; reducing regulations, policies, and bureaucratic processes; leading the development of technological norms, standards, parameters and models of governance; supporting the development of primary innovation among academic institutions, laboratories, support infrastructure, investment funds, and industry; prioritizing research and development in the government budget; developing and adopting technological applications within the government; encouraging public-private partnerships; building technology partnerships with allies and partners.

Another strategic goal is to protect US technology, with collaboration between companies, industries, universities, and government agencies. Thus, the priority actions to protect the technological advantage of the United States are: ensure that competitors do not adopt illicit means to acquire US intellectual property, research, development or technology; require design security at the preliminary stages of technology development, and cooperate with allies and partners to take similar actions, to protect the integrity of the research and development enterprise through research security measures in academic institutions, laboratories, and industry, with balanced contributions from foreign researchers; ensure the appropriation of technologies through the use of export control and regulatory laws as well as multilateral export regimes; engage allies and partners to develop their own procedures similar to those in the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). The US government has adopted a list of emerging and critical technologies: communications and networking technologies, semiconductors and microelectronics, space technologies, advanced computing, advanced conventional weapons, advanced engineering materials, advanced manufacturing, advanced sensors, airborne technologies and devices, agricultural technologies, artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, biotechnologies, chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear materials mitigation technologies, data science and storage, leading-edge computing distribution technologies, energy technologies, human-machine interfaces, medical and public health technologies, quantum information science.

In short, the US national security policy focuses on maintaining its global influence and competitive edge in advanced technologies. The measure is a reaction to China’s advances in emerging and critical technologies. This US policy impacts 5G technology, as much of the equipment is integrated by semiconductors (microchips) manufactured by US companies. Besides, the government establishes a strict export control of semiconductors related to 5G technology to restrict access by Chinese companies due to the trade dispute with China. On the other hand, a representative of the US government declared the opening of a credit line through Exim Bank (the United States Bank of Imports and Exports) to finance the acquisition of 5G technology by telecommunications companies in Brazil. Also, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien was in Brazil on an official mission, with meetings with the federal government and Fiesp – the São Paulo Federation of Industries.

As one can see, 5G technology is a matter of interest for US national security. But, of course, this interference of the United States in Brazil’s national affairs must be analyzed from the perspective of national sovereignty. 

Since when is it up to the United States to “protect” Brazil’s telecommunications networks?

It is known that the United States, in its geostrategic vision, sees Brazil as an area of its strategic environment in the southern hemisphere. The United States is suspicious of Huawei, accusing it of spying practices. But in 2013, Brazil was the target of international espionage. And by whom? By the United States National Security Agency. This has even led to the establishment of a Parliamentary Investigation Committee. Also, Huawei is already present in Brazil as a supplier of telecommunications infrastructure equipment for almost two decades. So far, there is no reason to distrust its telecommunications equipment. We do not seek to defend either the United States or China. All that matters is Brazil First! Brazil is being used as a “satellite country” in the United States and China’s geopolitical dispute. For this reason, positioning oneself openly on one side of the geopolitical game will imply suffering consequences, and Brazilian companies will be under more significant geopolitical risks. Thus, a geostrategy of technological neutrality may be the most appropriate path to protect Brazil’s interests. Therefore, Brazil’s national interest requires the protection of its telecommunications network infrastructure from the risks and threats of espionage, whether from US intelligence services or China and/or third parties. In this regard, any partnership and/or alliance that Brazil enters must be supported by relationships of trust, loyalty, reciprocity, and good faith.  If the partner is unreliable and/or does not show trust, the relationship becomes problematic. A policy of blind trust in the United States is dangerous for Brazil. Intelligent geostrategy for Brazil on 5G requires prudence, assessment of the facts, and geopolitical pragmatism, but also verifying the historic hegemonic position of the United States in the continent.

The most sovereign geostrategic alternative is for Brazil to take the lead in technological leadership, forming a range of international allies, in addition to the United States and China. Thus, the national economy and the concept of national defense must be considered, with the Brazilian interest prevailing, and not American First! The omission of the Brazilian State to protect telecommunications networks’ security against any invaders is an attack on national sovereignty.

The matter of 5G poses geopolitical risks, challenges, and economic opportunities for Brazil. At stake is the future of the digital economy in Brazil and the respective influences and control.