Canada is set to ban two of China’s biggest telecoms equipment makers, Huawei and ZTE, from working on its 5G phone networks, following the lead of the UK and US.
Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Francois-Philippe Champagne said the move would “protect the safety and security of Canadians”.
The ban will mean that Canadian telecoms firms will no longer be allowed to use equipment made by Huawei and ZTE, and comes after a review of Huawei equipment back in September 2018 by the Canadian authorities.
The decision comes as no surprise, UK, US, Australia and New Zealand all banning or restricting the companies on their high-speed networks.
Donald Trump’s administration came down particularly hard on Chinese tech, and launched a crack down on any firms that it believed enabled Beijing espionage.
The pressure on Huawei has grown in recent years as the US cracks down on Chinese companies that it believes are enabling or undertaking activities that could threaten US national security.
Speaking to reporters, Champagne said: “Let me be very clear: We will always protect the safety and security of Canadians and will take any actions necessary to safeguard our telecommunication infrastructure,” he added.
“In a 5G world, at a time where we rely more and more in our daily lives [on] our network, this is the right decision.”
A spokesperson from the Chinese embassy in Ottawa told Reuters that the move was the “pretext for political manipulation”, and the country has been critical of the West’s reaction to the networks.
A spokesperson fro Huawei Canada said: “Huawei Canada is disappointed by the Canadian government’s decision. This is an unfortunate political decision that has nothing to do with cyber security or any of the technologies in question.
“Over the past 13 years, Huawei Canada has devoted itself to helping Canadian carriers build out their wireless networks and provide quality services for the Canadian people. Huawei equipment, including both hardware and software, has been routinely and closely scrutinized by the government and its security agencies according to stringent quality standards. There have been zero security incidents caused by Huawei equipment throughout this entire period. We are proud of our security record in Canada.
“Banning Huawei’s equipment and services will lead to significant economic loss in Canada and drive up the cost of communications for Canadian consumers. Unfortunately, this decision is beyond our control as a business. However, we will do everything in our capacity to protect the legitimate rights and interests of our customers, partners, and ourselves. We thank all of our Canadian partners, customers, and consumers for their ongoing support, and look forward to contributing to future network rollout in Canada when conditions permit”, they said.
At the end of last year, Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, resolved criminal charges against her as part of a shock deal with the US Justice Department following fraud charges.
The arrangement, known as a deferred prosecution agreement, resolved a years-long legal and geopolitical tussle that involved not only the US and China but also Canada, where Meng has remained since she was arrested at Vancouver’s airport in December 2018.
She returned to China earlier this year in exchange for Meng accepting responsibility for misrepresenting her company’s business dealings in Iran.