Banning Huawei from 5G networks in Canada a ‘no-brainer’, say analysts
Relations with China were already at a low point. ‘And so if you’re going to pull a band-aid off, you might as well do it now’
Banning Huawei from Canada’s 5G networks is a “no-brainer” that would send a strong message to China, the U.S. and our Five Eyes allies, according to analysts.
The Liberals have been postponing a decision on Huawei for almost three years, but with the recent release of the Two Michaels from Chinese prisons an announcement is expected to be made within weeks of Parliament returning on November 22.
“The federal government has no choice but to announce that Huawei will not be allowed,” given Chinese national security laws and the United States’ position on Huawei, former Canadian ambassador to China Guy Saint-Jacques said.
David Welch, a professor of political science at the University of Waterloo, was more blunt.
A ban was a “no-brainer,” noting that “all of our key allies have banned Huawei gear,” he said.
A major fear is that having Huawei equipment in Canada’s next-generation wireless networks is a security risk, especially considering China’s laws that state companies must cooperate with its intelligence services.
Then-Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale initially said he was aiming to release a decision on Huawei prior to the 2019 federal election, but the timing of a decision now could be an opportunity for the Liberals.
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Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig have been released from jail, the U.S. has been pushing Canada to take a stronger stance on China, and any retaliation is likely to be muted given the upcoming Beijing Olympics in February.
Meanwhile, Canada’s large telecoms have already been moving on building 5G networks with other vendors.
“I don’t think I would expect a lot of immediate dramatic reaction on China’s part, just simply because the Olympics are coming up. And China wouldn’t want to do anything that would rock the boat,” said Welch
He said relations with China were already at a low point. “And so if you’re going to pull a band-aid off, you might as well do it now.”
Saint-Jacques predicted that China would “probably retaliate by banning one of our exports” or a similar measure, but to do that they’ll have to choose a product they can get elsewhere. When it comes to products like agri-foods, “there is a limited number of countries where they can source their products.”
Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne told the Canadian Press that Canada would only move forward with “trusted partners” in future artificial intelligence initiatives. His office declined further comment.
But the decision on whether to ban Huawei equipment is a deeply political one. Going the same route as our Five Eyes allies — who have taken action to block or restrict Huawei equipment — is “of crucial importance,” said Kim Nossal, a professor emeritus of international relations at Queen’s University.