Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is considering banning Huawei Technologies Co (華為) from supplying components to the nation’s upcoming 5G network because he sees China as a global threat to data privacy and sovereignty, a senior member of his Cabinet said.
While a decision has not been made yet and would take into consideration the views of others in the Cabinet, the remarks are evidence of Bolsonaro’s continued suspicion of Brazil’s largest trading partner.
Caught between Washington and Beijing, Brazilian officials have so far refrained from saying whether they would give in to US requests to ban Huawei.
Still, the Cabinet member dismissed the possibility of Chinese retaliation, saying that Beijing relies on Brazilian imports to feed its population. Other countries which have banned Huawei have not suffered major consequences, the person added, requesting anonymity to discuss internal matters.
Chinese Ambassador to Brazil Yang Wanming (楊萬明) on Wednesday last week said that the decision on Huawei would help define the broader relationship between the two emerging market giants.
“What’s at stake is whether a country can set up market rules based on openness, impartiality and non-discrimination,” he said.
Bolsonaro’s office deferred the request for comment on the remarks to the Brazilian Ministry of Communications, which said that the decision is a matter of national security involving many national stakeholders. Leaders of all countries involved are discussing the subject, it added, without elaborating.
China was the destination of 40 percent of Brazilian exports in the first half of the year, Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture data showed.
Sales to China, mostly soybeans, generated more revenue than those to the US, Latin America, Europe and Africa combined.
Relations with Beijing have been tense since Bolsonaro took office last year, after heavily criticizing China during his presidential campaign. A close ally of US President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro warmed up to Chinese President Xi Jinping during a trip to Asia last year.
However, just a few months ago, Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araujo implicitly censured China, saying that the COVID-19 pandemic had revived “the communist nightmare.”
Other officials have expressed more pragmatic views. Brazilian Vice President Hamilton Mourao has advocated for an open bidding process to pick the builders of the 5G network.
Brazil plans to select those firms in May next year, after the pandemic delayed the process initially scheduled for this year, Brazilian Minister of Communications Fabio Faria said, adding that the delay this would allow the government to observe global developments before making a decision.
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