The New Zealand government is holding the door open for China’s Huawei Technologies Co (華為) to help develop the nation’s 5G network amid concerns that the issue is fraying ties between the two nations.
New Zealand’s spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau, in November last year stopped telecom Spark New Zealand Ltd from using Huawei 5G equipment, citing significant national security risks.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday said that her government is working through a process and that the Chinese firm could still be involved if Spark can satisfy the bureau’s concerns.
“There’s been no final decision here yet,” she told Newshub. “It is now currently with Spark to mitigate the concerns that have been raised. That is where the process sits.”
Spark in November said that the bureau’s ruling meant it could not implement its proposal to use Huawei equipment for its planned 5G network.
It has not said whether it will try to mitigate any of the bureau’s concerns.
New Zealand’s decision to block Huawei followed Australia’s lead and came after reported pressure from the US.
It has led to fears that China is showing its displeasure by impeding trade and tourist flows.
Ardern denied any friction and said that while her nation is a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance that includes the US, Australia, Canada and the UK, it makes these decisions independently.
The topic is getting renewed attention amid reports that the UK might be able to accommodate Huawei in its 5G plans.
Signs of strain in the relationship with China have put the New Zealand government under pressure.
Recent incidents include an Air New Zealand Ltd jet to Shanghai being forced to turn back over paperwork that included references to Taiwan, the postponement of the formal launch of the China-New Zealand year of tourism in Wellington because senior Chinese officials were unable to attend and Ardern’s inability to reschedule a trip to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平).
Any cooling of the friendship could have significant ramifications for New Zealand, which is in the process of negotiating an upgrade of its free-trade agreement with China.
The world’s most populous country and second-largest economy has become New Zealand’s biggest trading partner, taking a quarter of all exports, while surging Chinese visitors have helped make tourism the country’s biggest foreign-exchange earner.
Ardern on Monday pushed back against claims of a deteriorating relationship, saying it was “robust.”
Additional reporting by staff writer
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