Canada weighs Huawei’s future in 5G as U.S. ban looms


OTTAWA–The federal government is still weighing whether Huawei can help build Canada’s 5G infrastructure as the U.S. appears poised to completely ban the Chinese telecom giant.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said Wednesday that the government continues to review “all potential suppliers” for Canada’s next generation of wireless networks from both a technological and national security perspective.

Goodale was responding to reports that U.S. President Donald Trump is ready to sign an executive order banning the Chinese company from American 5G networks.

“We obviously pay careful attention to what our allies are saying and doing. Some have expressed views, others have not,” Goodale said outside the House of Commons.

“We’ll take all that into account, but we want to make the very best decision for Canada with respect to the technology and also on national security. Our national security will not be compromised.”

Reuters reported Tuesday night that Trump is expected to sign the executive order this week, citing three unnamed sources. The U.S. has actively lobbied allies to keep Huawei technology out of their networks, suggesting it could be used to spy for Beijing.

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Huawei has aggressively and repeatedly denied allegations it poses a national security threat.

Trump’s order would have little impact on the main wireless carriers in the U.S., which already do not employ Huawei products in their networks. According to Reuters, only about 25 per cent of smaller U.S. carriers use equipment from Huawei and another Chinese supplier, ZTE.

But a move by Trump to officially ban all Huawei products could be another salvo in the escalating trade war between the U.S. and China.

A U.S. ban would also put constraints on what Ottawa can do. In an interview with Sky News last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo strongly suggested that the U.S. could limit intelligence sharing with countries that allow Huawei technology in their networks.

“We don’t believe you can have those technologies in your systems and still have a trusted network,” Pompeo

“But the United States, for its part, will only participate in trusted networks. We will only share America’s information with those networks that we are confident aren’t under the control of China … There’s really risk if countries choose that path, that we won’t be able to participate in those networks.”

A breakdown in intelligence sharing with the U.S. would have serious ramifications for Canada, which is a net importer of intelligence in the Five Eyes alliance, and is likely a consideration in the federal government’s review of the 5G file.

Goodale wouldn’t say Wednesday when that review will be released. Bloomberg News, citing unnamed government officials, reported last week that the Liberals could delay a decision until after October’s federal election.

Alex Boutilier is an Ottawa-based reporter covering national politics. Follow him on Twitter: @alexboutilier

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