Canada’s decision on whether to allow Huawei Technologies Co. access to its next-generation wireless network won’t be a political one, Justin Trudeau said.
The prime minister’s comments, made Wednesday at a year-end news conference in Ottawa, come amid heightened tensions with Beijing. Three Canadians have been detained in China since the arrest of a top Huawei executive in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition request earlier this month.
The firm is racing to develop 5G technology, the fifth-generation mobile network that could be 100 times faster than existing standards. Australia and New Zealand have effectively banned Huawei from their grids, while the U.K and Germany are being pressed to follow suit over concerns the gear could be exploited by China’s spy agencies.
“There are millions of dollars, billions of dollars at stake in technology and in communications infrastructure, there is also the extraordinary imperative that Canadians and people around the world expect to be kept safe and free from interference and cyber attacks,” Trudeau said.
“It shouldn’t at all be a political decision made on how we engage, but a decision made by experts and a decision based on recommendations by our intelligence and security agencies,” he said.
U.S. lawmakers wrote to Trudeau in October urging him to block Huawei from 5G in Canada, and American officials ramped up pressure on Germany over the same issue this week. The company rejects espionage concerns outright, saying that excluding it from the new networks will snarl the advent of future wireless technologies worldwide.
Trudeau also sought to keep politics out of the cases of three Canadians captured this month by Chinese authorities. While the most recent detainee has yet to be identified, the prime minister said the case appears unrelated to the first two, who are facing national security investigations.
Read more: Chinese arrests are all too familiar for past Canadian detainees
Michael Kovrig, a diplomat on leave from his post in Hong Kong, and Michael Spavor, entrepreneur who helped organize tourist trips to North Korea, were seized by Chinese state security officers nine days after Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou was taken into custody on Canada’s Pacific coast. She is now out on bail, pending an extradition hearing.
“We are looking into the details on this most recent one that doesn’t seem to fit the pattern set by the previous two,” Trudeau said. He added that “political posturing or political statements aren’t necessarily going to contribute” to their successful resolution.
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