Centre for International and Defence Policy

Centre for International and Defence Policy
Centre for International and Defence Policy

Kim Nossal: Canada and Huawei - letting politics slip in  

Monday, 22 October 2018
the Interpreter, Lowy Institute

Canada has decided not to join Australia and the United States in barring Huawei Technologies Ltd of Shenzen from participating in the development of Canada’s 5G mobile networks. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau argued that his government’s decision on Huawei is based “on evidence and data”, and in particular on recommendations from the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), the federal agency that collects foreign signals intelligence and protects telecommunications networks.

The CSE’s Canadian Centre for Cyber Security had advised the Trudeau cabinet that while it recognised that Huawei was subject to Chinese law that required it to cooperate with the Central People’s Government in Beijing on national intelligence work, it did not believe that the most appropriate approach was to ban the firm. It noted that Huawei already operates under considerable constraints in Canada: it is not permitted to bid on federal contracts, it is not permitted to manage equipment from offshore locations, and it is not permitted to bid on the core networks of Canada’s telecommunications companies.

Importantly, the CSE noted that it had a sufficiently “robust system” for ensuring that Huawei’s hardware and software would not compromise security. In particular, CSE “white labs” – actually paid for by Huawei itself – conduct tests on the equipment for intercept capabilities.

The Huawei decision actually had a number of important political purposes.

Given these recommendations, Trudeau argued that his government preferred “listening to the experts and trusting them” on telecommunications security. His government, he asserted, was not going “to let politics slip into decisions” on such matters.

In fact, Canada’s Huawei decision is much more political than the Prime Minister suggests.

To read the full article go to: https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/canada-and-huawei-letting-politics-slip