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Britain to take ‘balanced view’ over Huawei’s involvement in 5G, high commissioner says

Britain to take ‘balanced view’ over Huawei’s involvement in 5G, high commissioner says
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The U.K.’s chief Ottawa diplomat says Britain is weighing the risks of deploying next-generation wireless gear from Chinese telecom Huawei Technologies Ltd., as other nations consider banning the use of the technology.

“We are working with Huawei to look at how we can mitigate strategic risks,” High Commissioner Susan le Jeune d’Allegeershecque said at an event in Toronto Tuesday.

The company, its employees and its technology have been under the microscope since U.S. officials accused it of industrial spying at the behest of the Chinese government.

British media reports say the U.K. National Cyber Security Centre has found Huawei gear can be used safely in the new fifth generation network infrastructure — known as 5G technology — with proper care and control. d’Allegeershecque said an outright ban in Britain, an important market for Huawei, is unlikely.

She said the U.K. is taking a “balanced view” and intends to pursue opportunities with China, but will continue to call out Beijing over concerns about its behaviour, such as its detention of Canadians after the RCMP arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wenzhou in Vancouver in December.

The arrest was at the request of the U.S. government, which is seeking her extradition to face criminal charges reportedly for offences including money laundering and theft of trade secrets. The Wall Street Journal in April said the U.S. Justice Department was investigating whether Huawei violated U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Huawei denies any wrongdoing and says its network gear does not provide a back door to Chinese intelligence services. That gear is sold to telecom carriers and enterprise clients and embedded in legacy wireless networks in Canada and elsewhere.

Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said, in a BBC interview published over the weekend, the arrest of his daughter was politically motivated.

Ottawa is also mulling Huawei’s possible role as a vendor in the rollout of the ultra-high speed 5G systems. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is said to be preparing an executive order banning U.S. firms from using in key telecom networks Chinese components. Fellow member of the Five Eyes security group Australia has banned Huawei from supplying 5G equipment, and New Zealand officials said Monday it would make an independent assessment of the risk.

The high commissioner was speaking at the Toronto Region Board of Trade and added that informal technical discussions that could lead to a U.K.-Canada free trade deal are continuing even as the U.K.’s exit from the EU is set for March 29. She said Britain could launch formal negotiations on a bilateral pact with Canada “the day we leave the European Union.”

Acknowledging Brexit has created uncertainty for Canadians with business interests in the U.K., she said “I am as confident as I can be that that there would be no leaving with no deal.”

The British government had planned to rollover existing trade deals before the exit deadline. But international trade secretary Liam Fox told Parliament it has secured agreements with only a handful of the 69 countries — Canada among them — the U.K. trades with under preferential EU agreements. Those end after Brexit.
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