Canada’s Huawei 5G decision may drag past election, sources say
The Canadian government believes there's now less urgency to make a decision on whether to ban Huawei Technologies Co. from 5G telecommunications systems — and that decision could now come after the October federal election, officials familiar with the matter say.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government believes it’s facing less pressure from telecommunications firms than before to make a decision, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter.
Canada had expected to move more quickly, though its Five Eyes allies remain divided. Three of the countries — Canada, the U.K. and New Zealand — are deliberating what to do about Huawei while a fourth, the U.S., wants allies to restrict the firm. The fifth, Australia, has already banned Huawei from 5G. Split decisions could lead the allies to claw back cooperation in certain areas.
As of January, Canada was still said to be months away from a decision, though some officials expected it before the election. The timing is now up in the air. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in April the government was working on technical issues but was pushing to get to a decision, in part “to ensure that Canadians enjoy the full benefits of this important new technology.”
The government is “carefully assessing the security challenges and potential threats involved in future 5G technology, while recognizing the potential this technology holds for Canadians,” Scott Bardsley, a spokesman for Goodale, said Wednesday in an email. “We will be taking appropriate decisions in due course to ensure that our networks are kept safe for Canadians.”
Many analysts expect Canada to ban Huawei, though the country’s decision is fraught with political tension after its arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, who is facing extradition to the U.S. and appeared in court Wednesday. Since Meng’s arrest, China has seized two Canadians, blocked Canadian crop exports and sentenced two other Canadians to death on drug charges.
A Huawei ban could risk further straining ties, as China demands Meng’s release. The China standoff is not the driving force on the timing of any Huawei decision, one of the officials said.
New Zealand has taken steps to block the telecom, though its Prime Minister says no final decision has been made. The U.K. is said to be leaning toward restrictions instead of a full ban, while Prime Minister Theresa May also forced out a cabinet minister over a leak about Huawei. U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened an executive order targeting Huawei, but said it could be part of a trade deal with China.
Telus Corp. (T.TO) and BCE Inc.’s (BCE.TO) Bell Canada would be most heavily affected by a Huawei ban. Rogers Communications Inc. (RCIb.TO) uses Ericsson AB of Sweden and wouldn’t be affected. Telus has warned of the potential fallout and cost of a ban.
Huawei, Telus, Bell and Rogers didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
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