(Bloomberg) — China warned France against treating Huawei Technologies Co. differently from European competitors when it comes to future 5G network equipment contracts, as the U.S. mounts a campaign to keep the Chinese tech giant at bay.
In a lengthy statement issued on Sunday on its website, the Chinese embassy in Paris urged France to establish “transparent criteria and treat all companies in a similar way,” referring to telecom equipment makers.
It also warned that a difference in treatment based on the country of origin would be considered “blatant discrimination” and “disguised protectionism.”
The statement also carried a veiled warning.
“We do not wish to see the development” in China of Finland’s Nokia Oyj and Sweden’s Ericsson AB being “impacted because of discrimination and protectionism” against Huawei by France and other European countries, the embassy said.
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The statement comes as France prepares to auction off 5G spectrum in April. France’s main carrier, Orange SA, has already announced it would leave Huawei out of its 5G network and work instead with Nokia and Ericsson.
But two other French carriers who’ve been reliant on Huawei for their 4G networks, Altice Europe NV’s SFR and Bouygues SA’s telecom unit, have yet to name their 5G partners.
The U.S. has been pressuring European allies to ban Huawei over fears that China’s government may be able to access its systems for spying. Huawei and Beijing officials deny there’s any such risk.
“Huawei’s 5G equipment are totally safe” and have never presented any “backdoor” lapses, the statement from the embassy added.
The U.K. government has faced a backlash from some senior lawmakers in its own party following a decision last month to let Huawei play a limited role in its 5G networks. That prompted one of China’s top diplomats in Britain to call their opposition “a witch hunt” in an interview with the BBC on Sunday.
President Donald Trump has privately castigated Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn’t rule out the possibility that the episode could hurt post-Brexit trade talks between the countries.
(Adds Chinese ambassador comment in penultimate paragraph.)
–With assistance from Thomas Seal.
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To contact the editors responsible for this story: Thomas Pfeiffer at firstname.lastname@example.org, Jennifer Ryan, Anne Pollak
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