By Jeff Mason and Michael Martina
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan raised concerns about Huawei equipment in Brazil’s 5G telecoms network during his visit to the country last week, a White House official said on Monday, but Brazil made no promises about whether it would use products from the Chinese company.
U.S. officials also pressed Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, on his efforts to call Brazilian election integrity into question and said the United States had confidence in Brazil’s ability to carry out free elections, the National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere, Juan Gonzalez, told reporters on a conference call.
Gonzalez denied reports that the United States had offered support for a NATO partnership with Brazil in exchange for cooperation over 5G equipment made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, saying the two issues were not related and there was no “quid pro quo.”
“We do support Brazil’s aspirations as a NATO global partner as a way to deepen security cooperation over time between Brazil and the NATO countries,” Gonzalez said.
“We continue to have concerns about Huawei’s potential role in Brazil’s telecom infrastructure,” Gonzales said, adding that Huawei was facing “major challenges” to its semiconductor supply chain that would leave international customers “high and dry.”
Brazil “made no commitments to us” regarding Huawei, he said, adding that U.S. officials had urged both Brazil and Argentina to build native industries.
The United States has opposed Brazil’s use of Huawei on security grounds, though Brazilian telecom companies have already built networks largely with Chinese components.
Huawei was put on a U.S. export blacklist in 2019 and barred from accessing critical technology of U.S. origin, affecting its ability to design its own chips and source components from outside vendors.
The far-right Bolsonaro had followed former President Donald Trump in opposing Huawei over claims that it shares confidential data with China’s ruling Communist Party and government. But with China being Brazil’s largest trade partner, he has faced resistance from industry and within his own government.
Gonzalez said U.S. officials had been “very direct” in expressing confidence in Brazilian institutions being able to carry out a free and fair election next year with proper safeguards against fraud.
“We stressed the importance of not undermining confidence in that process, especially since there were no signs of fraud in … prior elections,” he said.
Bolsonaro has railed for weeks against the electronic voting machines used in Brazil and pushed for the adoption of printed receipts that can be counted if any election result is disputed.
Critics fear that he, like Trump, is sowing doubts in case he loses next year’s election.
Trump and Bolsonaro were close allies and political kindred spirits. Gonzalez said Trump did not come up during the meetings.
With his popularity falling amid the world’s second-highest COVID-19 death toll, opinion polls show Bolsonaro trails former leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, though neither has officially announced their candidacy.
(Reporting by Michael Martina and Jeff Mason; Editing by Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)