Australia to pay for 5G restrictions on Huawei
According to Reuters on Saturday, China told Australia at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Friday that Australia’s restrictions on Chinese 5G technology was “obviously discriminative” and appeared to break global trade rules. However, Australian Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said on Sunday that the Australian government “stands by its decision on 5G, which was not aimed at any one country or telecommunications company.”
China’s warning against Australia at the WTO can be seen as a new way to counteract Australia’s decision to exclude China’s Huawei Technologies from the country’s 5G network. China is strictly in line with the international rules, which is a mature and sensible act.
But is the ban as reasonable as what Canberra claims? According to the WTO’s official website, trade without discrimination is one of the most important principles of the current multilateral trading system. But the WTO issued its “national security” exception on April 5, which means that countries may use it to block imports. To make it more specific, the WTO also clarified that “national security” refers to “a situation of armed conflict, or of latent armed conflict, or of heightened tensions or crisis, or of general instability engulfing or surrounding a state.”
But, obviously, none of these definitions fit Huawei’s equipment and products. Until today, no country can provide any conclusive evidence that Huawei has been a national security threat. Australia is the first country in the Five Eyes alliance that has followed the US to exclud Huawei, and it still refuses to change its attitude.
Many Western countries have cleared Huawei for the 5G network, although they stressed that they will use their own national security procedures to examine Huawei’s technologies. For example, Germany said on Monday that it won’t ban Huawei despite Washington’s pressure, and the UK announced that Huawei’s security concerns are controllable. It seems that Australia is the only country that is obedient to the US.
China aims to maintain the current international order. We respect the WTO’s rules on national security exception. The US-initiated technological cold war against Huawei’s 5G is a great retrogression of WTO rules. It also harms the development of international trade based on WTO rules – the rules once greatly supported by Western countries.
No country should mix their own political will or ideology with normal international economic and trade cooperation. But, unfortunately, under the US’ command, Australia has become a pioneer in destroying the rules.
China’s warning at the WTO shows that Beijing will not shut its eyes to violations of multilateral trade principles. China should shoulder the responsibility of maintaining international rules, as well as urge the WTO to oppose a technological trade war through legitimate WTO complaints. Thus, China needs to build its professional groups to fight such trade discrimination under the current rules and procedures. Australia is bound to pay the price for its unwise decisions.