Monday, 15 April 2019 07:45

China tells Australia that 5G ban may breach WTO rules Featured

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China tells Australia that 5G ban may breach WTO rules Pixabay

China has told Australia that its restrictions on 5G technology are discriminatory and likely to have broken global trade rules drafted by the World Trade Organisation.

The exchange, reported by Reuters, took place at the WTO in Geneva on Friday, with Beijing's representative to the organisation's Council on Trade in Goods saying steps taken by countries to restrict 5G technology had a big effect on international trade.

The Chinese representative also said that such measures would not help in better cyber security but would only serve to isolate countries technologically.

Australia banned the use of equipment from Huawei Technologies in its 5G networks last August, citing risks to national security.

For nearly two years, the US has been pushing countries it considers allies to avoid using equipment from Chinese companies, Huawei foremost, in 5G networks. But Washington has produced no proof to back up its claims that these products could be used to spy for China.

Only Australia and New Zealand have fallen in line with Washington's dictates, but Wellington has indicated that the initial refusal for telco Spark to use Huawei gear is not the end of the matter. That stance was reiterated by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during a one-day China visit in April. Huawei sued the US on 7 March, seeking to be reinstated as a telco supplier in the country.

In its statement issued in August, Canberra made no mention of either Huawei, or another Chinese firm, ZTE Corporation, whose products were subject to a similar ban.

The Chinese diplomat at the WTO said Australia had not made official any reasons for the ban which seemed to have taken effect well before the law in question was promulgated on 18 September 2018.

“Country-specific and discriminatory restriction measures can not address the concerns on cyber security, nor make anyone safe, but only disrupt the global industrial chain, and make the country itself isolated from the application of better technology,” the Chinese representative told the meeting.

WTO rules prohibit any member country from discriminating against other members and preventing imports from any one country.

However, "national security" can be cited to obtain an exemption though this method of evading a rule was not practised as WTO officials feared it would become common practice.

A WTO ruling clarified that, apart from war and the arms business, national security meant “a situation of armed conflict, or of latent armed conflict, or of heightened tension or crisis, or of general instability engulfing or surrounding a state".

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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