Former Quebec premier Jean Charest, who is contemplating a run for the Conservative Party leadership, has been acting as a consultant to Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. in the Meng Wanzhou extradition case and the tech giant’s efforts to participate in Canada’s 5G wireless networks, a source says.
Mr. Charest is part of a team at the law firm of McCarthy Tétrault, including former privy council clerk Wayne Wouters, that Huawei retained in the summer to offer strategic advice.
A source said Mr. Charest and Mr. Wouters are providing strategic advice to Huawei. This includes intelligence and policy advice on understanding the extradition process facing Ms. Meng, the chief financial officer and daughter of company founder Ren Zhengfei.
They are also advising Huawei as it seeks approval to sell equipment for the construction of Canada’s 5G networks. The federal government is conducting a cybersecurity review to determine whether Canada should bar the Chinese high-tech firm from participating in the next generation of wireless technology, as the United States and Australia have. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the source because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
A request to Mr. Charest for comment was referred to McCarthy Tétrault’s communications department.
“McCarthy Tétrault’s policy is never to comment on client matters or comment on whether we acted for an organization or not,” senior communications manager Alley Adams said in a statement.
Huawei said it would not discuss any law firms it engages.
“As a multinational with operations in 170 countries, we retain law firms and outside experts for advice. We don’t discuss individual law firms or advisers, I’m not sure of any company that does,” Huawei vice-president for corporate affairs Alykhan Velshi said in a statement.
Mr. Charest’s consulting duties for Huawei appear to put him at odds with the current policies of the Conservative Party, which has urged the Trudeau government to ban Huawei from selling its 5G gear to Canadian telecoms as other members of the Fives Eyes intelligence partnership have done. The United States and Australia have blocked Huawei from 5G networks, and New Zealand rejected one proposal to build a 5G network with Huawei gear. Britain and Canada have yet to decide.
Mr. Charest has publicly criticized the Trump administration over its request for the extradition of Ms. Meng on charges of fraud relating to violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran.
On a business and trade panel hosted by the Empire Club in Toronto on Nov. 5, Mr. Charest said it is important for Canada to seek closer ties with the fast-rising China.
“Our policy toward China has been hijacked by Donald Trump,” Mr. Charest said. “We should not be kowtowing to another government with regard to our relationship with China.”
Mr. Charest added that Canada’s global image suffered when it arrested Ms. Meng, especially after President Donald Trump announced in late 2018 that he was open to using the case as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations with China.
“For us to be involved in an extradition case where Donald Trump tweets … days later: I am ready to drop the charges if I get a trade deal with China. You know, in the rest of the world, it doesn’t make Canada look very good,” Mr. Charest said. “That’s not the place where we want to be.”
The former premier acknowledged during his remarks that “he has clients in China.”
Mr. Charest was joined on the panel by former Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay, who is reported to also be considering a bid for the Conservative leadership.
Mr. MacKay responded to Mr. Charest’s criticism of the United States by saying: “I’m picking a democracy every time when it comes to how we align ourselves, especially when our interests converge in our own backyard.”
Ms. Meng was arrested in December, 2018, at Vancouver International Airport on a U.S. extradition request. Her hearing begins later this month. U.S. authorities accuse Ms. Meng and other Huawei executives of lying to banks so that they would clear transactions with Iran through the United States despite U.S. sanctions.
China arrested Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor on allegations of national security offences only days after Ms. Meng was detained. Ms. Meng is free on bail and living in one of her two Vancouver homes while the Canadians are locked in prison cells with the lights on 24 hours a day.
In late December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Mr. Trump not to sign any final trade agreement with China until Mr. Kovrig and Mr. Spavor are released.
Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei says the arrest of his daughter and CFO Meng Wanzhou was part of a political attack against the company by the U.S. Zhengfei was interviewed by The Globe's Nathan VanderKlippe in December 2019.
The Globe and Mail