1 Jul 2019

Huawei move by US unlikely to change NZ's security assessment

7:11 am on 1 July 2019

New Zealand is unlikely to rethink its stance on Huawei in response to the United States easing restrictions on the Chinese technology giant.

FILE - In this Thursday, March 7, 2019 file photo, two men use their mobile phones outside a Huawei retail shop in Shenzhen, China's Guangdong province.

Photo: AP

In what's being seen as a major concession to Beijing, President Donald Trump has reversed a ban on American tech companies selling materials to Huawei.

But the minister responsible for the GCSB, Andrew Little, says that was unlikely to alter any security assessment of Huawei's involvement in telco networks.

Andrew Little at Pike River Mine re-entry delay announcement

Andrew Little Photo: RNZ / Ana Tovey

The spy agency last year blocked a proposal from Spark to use Huawei 5G equipment in its planned network rollout; Spark is still deciding whether to reapply.

Mr Little said New Zealand's regulations were neutral as to country and all applications were assessed on a case-by-case basis.

The partial lifting of restrictions on Huawei was a key element of the agreement reached over the weekend between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping to reopen stalled trade negotiations between the two countries.

A top White House aide said the expanded sales would only apply to products widely available around the world, and leave the most sensitive equipment off limits.

"All that is going to happen is Commerce will grant some additional licenses where there is a general availability" of the parts the company needs, National Economic Council chairman Larry Kudlow told Fox News Sunday.

US microchip firms in particular "are selling products that are widely available from other countries ... This not a general amnesty ... The national security concerns will remain paramount," he said.

Mr Trump's move has drawn bipartisan criticism from US Senators concerned that Huawei has close ties to Chinese intelligence agencies that could exploit the global distribution of its technology.

New Zealand technology analyst Paul Brislen said the concessions were effectively a "get out of jail free" card for the Chinese company and may make other countries, including New Zealand, start reconsidering their positions on a 5G Huawei rollout.

However commentator Paul Spain, from the tech company Gorilla, was predicting little change in New Zealand's stance, and said it was hard to read anything in to the new US policy. "Trump is pretty unpredictable to say the least so in terms of really understanding what stands behind US policy we're all left guessing."

- RNZ / Reuters

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs