European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he won’t bow to US pressure over Huawei, saying that he won’t block the telecom giant from doing business in Europe merely because it’s a foreign or specifically Chinese firm, so long as it plays by the rules.
Speaking alongside Japanese PM Shinzo Abe on Thursday, Juncker told reporters, “We are not rejecting someone because he is coming from faraway, because he is Chinese, the rules have to be respected.”
Amid Washington’s demands that Huawei be barred from Europe’s 5G buildout over suspicious it uses its equipment and network to provide a backdoor for Chinese state spying on the West, Juncker pushed back, saying further, “The European Union and our internal market are open markets and all those respecting our rules governing this internal market are welcome.”
A Japanese reporter had asked the European and Japanese leaders, “the U.S. is calling on the allies to eliminate telecom equipment of Chinese companies including Huawei, so what did you discuss about that? And on this issue, what do you plan to deal with at G20?”
The Japanese PM had responded to the question in a less direct manner: “We did not talk about specific countries or specific products. Dealing with cyber-security-related risks is extremely important, and we agree that we need to take coordinated actions at G20,” Abe said, according to Xinhuanet. Japan has recently banned Huawai 5G technology and equipment from being implemented in its territory.
“In the past, the importance of ICT, the importance of security countermeasures related to the use of ICT has been recognized, and therefore based on that recognition, we will continue that discussion and we wish to continue to collaborate with the EU,” Abe said, in reference to information and communications technology (ICT).
Though Washington has lately been aggressive in ramping up pressure on European allies to prevent the multinational China-based firm from getting a toe-hold in Europe’s future 5G, the American stance has been met with mixed reactions globally.
Currently, the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan maintain blanket bans on the Chinese company’s technology from being sold or implemented in their countries. And other so-called “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing countries the UK and Canada are reportedly strongly considering a ban.
But crucially, Germany last week has indicated there are no plans in place to prevent the Chinese telecommunications giant from participating in building Germany’s ultra-high speed 5G internet.
Juncker’s latest comments could embolden other EU countries — and especially those leaders who’ve remained ambivalent in their public stance — to step out of sync with Washington and remain open to business with Huawei.
In recent interviews with German newspapers, Huawei founder and CEO Ren Zhengfei said that he’s assured the country’s telecommunications regulator that no surveillance “backdoors” on its 5G equipment in the country would be possible, and that he’s proposed and will commit to a “no spy agreement” with German regulators.