Former prime minister Stephen Harper says he supports the United States’s campaign to persuade Canada and other key allies to ban the use of Huawei equipment in next-generation telecommunications networks.
The Trudeau government has so far refused to join the majority of the Five Eyes Intelligence community in barring Huawei equipment from being used in the infrastructure that will support 5G mobile networks. Canada is, however, conducting a review regarding whether the Chinese telecom equipment maker’s gear represents a national-security risk, as alleged by the intelligence agencies of the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
Mr. Harper told Fox News on Thursday that, as prime minister, he had become increasingly concerned about the penetration of Huawei and fellow Chinese telecom-equipment manufacturer ZTE into Western communications networks.
“These are organizations, ultimately tightly tied to the Chinese security apparatus, and we think there are some real, serious issues there,” Mr. Harper said. “The United States is encouraging Western allies to essentially push Huawei out of the emerging 5G network, and my personal view is that is something Western countries should be doing in terms of our own long-term security issues.”
The Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance consists of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Britain and the United States. Canada has already been warned by U.S. senators on the Senate intelligence committee in Washington that allowing Huawei inside the next generation of telecommunications networks could result in the Americans restricting Canadian access to U.S. intelligence.
The United States, Australia and New Zealand have barred wireless operators in their countries from upgrading to Huawei 5G technology, which would provide faster downloads and connect everything, from driverless cars to heart monitors, to the internet. Britain and Canada have yet to make a decision on whether to ban their telecoms from using Huawei equipment.
Mr. Harper would not comment on Canada’s Dec. 1 arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of American law-enforcement officials on suspicions of violating U.S. trade sanctions against Iran.
U.S. government efforts to extradite the senior Chinese telecom executive, whose father is the founder of Huawei, comes as Washington and Beijing are in the midst of a trade war and as the United States intensifies pressure on allies to shun the Chinese telecommunications giant.
However, Mr. Harper said Western countries must recognize that China is a geopolitical rival that has made “no secret of the desire to spread an alternative to Western democratic norms.”
Mr. Harper also spoke out against China’s unfair trade practices at the same time as it has wide-ranging access to markets in North America and Europe.
“Our access to their markets is extremely limited. It has caused a loss of millions of jobs in North America and, frankly, the trade deficits keep growing as China gets more wealthy.” he said. “The United States has essentially been paying for the rise of an alternative rival.”
When Mr. Harper was prime minister, his government sent a public signal to Huawei in 2012 that it would block the firm from bidding to build the Canadian government’s latest telecommunications and e-mail network.