U.S. President Donald Trump’s flip-flopping Huawei rhetoric is “unhelpful” regarding how Canada will make a decision concerning the China-based company, some federal Members of Parliament say.
In May, Trump issued an executive order that banned Huawei from doing business with any U.S. companies. Later in June, he said companies would be allowed to work with Huawei and that his administration plans to grant licenses with limitations.
Canada has not made a decision regarding Huawei yet, but a Reuters report indicates that a determination concerning whether the company will participate in the country’s 5G network development will happen after the upcoming federal election.
Federal MPs of all stripes are confident that whatever happens in the U.S., the decision in Canada will happen following a thorough assessment that considers every measure.
NDP MP Matthew Dubé, who is also the vice-chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU), said that Trump’s words have not been helpful concerning how the Canadian government intends to make a decision.
“There is no doubt that his approach to things poisons the well on a variety of issues, and on this [Huawei] issue particularly in a variety of ways whether it’s with the rhetoric that’s used, or the flip-flopping on the extent of the ban…are ultimately unhelpful,” he said.
Dubé said that while there is a bi-partisan relationship between Canada and the U.S., the country will ultimately make a decision that is “best for Canada.” He added that it was important to allow “our own agencies to make a proper non-political assessment of the situation and what impact Huawei can have.”
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has been reviewing 5G technologies in Canada and whether or not Huawei is a suitable vendor to provide equipment.
Goodale’s office said it could not comment on specific companies while the review takes place.
The minister has stated in the past that a decision will be made after carefully weighing “the opinions and advice of our Five Eyes allies and our G7 allies.
Goodale’s department did not respond directly when asked if Trump’s dialogue has made it difficult to make a decision.
“The United States is always a reliable security partner with Canada just as I would underline in bold letters: Canada is a very reliable partner to the United States. The relationship is good and valuable in both ways and we need to make sure it remains strong,” Goodale has noted in the past.
He has also said: “The American position is one that has a number of different nuances to it. Various officials from the United States have made very strong comments about their concerns with respect to certain technologies from certain countries.”
MobileSyrup has reached out to Huawei Canada for comment and will update the article with more detail.
Chair of the SECU committee and Liberal MP John McKay said that he wasn’t sure what is going on in the U.S. regarding Huawei.
“If you could tell me what’s going on in the U.S.A. I would appreciate it. It might be helpful to our ultimate decision,” he said. “I don’t know what’s going on in the U.S. and the trouble is I don’t think the U.S. knows what’s going on in the U.S.”
“I have nothing but sympathy for Minister Goodale and his decision making tree including the [Privy Council of Canada and the Prime Minister’s Office]. It is an extraordinarily difficult decision and one worries that the default position will be ‘Oh forget the security, everything is compromised anyway and we’ll go ahead with the cheapest, most effective technology,” he said.
Huawei began working with Canadian carriers in 2008, and since then has made close partnerships with Telus and Bell. Reports have said that Huawei’s network equipment is cheaper to purchase when compared to other alternatives in the market.
Since then, the Shenzhen, China-based telecommunications giant has introduced smartphones into the Canadian market and is also a prominent sponsor of Hockey Night in Canada.
Conservative MP Peter Kent, who has been lobbied by Huawei in the past, said that Trump’s rhetoric seems to come only out of the “White House.”
“I think the security agencies have remained consistent in their warnings that to allow Huawei anywhere near the 5G network, whether in the United States or in other Five Eyes democracies, [could expose] those countries and their societies and their security to possible breaches down the road,” Kent said.
Huawei ban decision isn’t black or white
Kent said part of the issue in Canada is that the country is facing an extradition issue with Huawei’s CFO, Meng Wanzhou. Meng was arrested in December and the U.S. has processed an extradition claim and charged her, Huawei and its subsidiary Skycom with 13 counts of bank and wire fraud charges. These allegations have not been proven in court and Huawei denies any wrongdoing.
The other issue Kent noted is that Telus and Bell have over-invested in Huawei’s “predatory, extremely cheap pricing and they want compensation for that payment if the government is going to ban it.”
If Huawei were to be banned, the carriers have estimated that the total cost of loss could be $1 billion.
This loss, Kent said, “would be a reflection on the incompetence of the Liberal government.”
“One gets the feeling they’re trying to kick the ball down the road [on] yet another issue they don’t want to confront before the federal election,” Kent said.
Innovation, Science and Economic Minister Navdeep Bains told MobileSyrup earlier this year that he is in constant conversation with the carriers regarding this issue.
Could the decision regarding Huawei and 5G be treated similarly to how the government handled 3G/4G LTE?
It is worth noting that in 2012, former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper announced that Huawei would be able to remain in Canada but could only provide infrastructure that isn’t in the core of the carriers’ networks. The core is where the most vulnerable information resides.
The carriers were able to use it in external infrastructure delivering network connections to the final destination, or what is considered the last mile.
Harper also decided that Huawei would not be able to bid on government contracts.
In trying to make its decision, the U.K. has looked into making a similar decision when it comes to 5G.
Researchers have suggested that 5G networks will be even more vulnerable than existing network technology.
Dubé recognized that a decision like that will only happen after the review is finished.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be status quo or outright ban, there could be a conclusion that will have more parameters,” he said, adding that he doesn’t have access to classified government documents but that these are all very real possibilities.
McKay was skeptical of the idea and said he “would question anything that takes you to the last mile because it’s sort of like giving the bank robber the keys and you drive them up to the bank and then you [show] them the door.”
Kent indicated that there should be an outright ban and if Andrew Scheer, his party’s leader, were Prime Minister it would have happened by now. Kent questioned having 5G Huawei equipment in the last mile.