Australian contract ban on Chinese firm not policy


AN Australian government decision to ban Chinese technology giant Huawei from working on a national broadband network does not signal new rules on Chinese investment in Australia, Trade Minister Craig Emerson said yesterday.

Australia remains open to Chinese investment, Emerson told the National Press Club. He said the current government, since coming to power in 2007, had approved all 350 foreign investment applications from China, although conditions were placed on six of them.

"My instinctive response ... is not to try to set up a whole set of new rules for these things," Emerson said.

He said the government had acted on advice in the national interest late last year when it told Huawei Technologies Ltd it was barred from bidding for work on the A$36 billion (US$38 billion) fiber-optic network.

Australian media have reported that the decision was prompted by Australian intelligence officials who cited hacking attacks traced to China, but the government has not made public its reasons.

"No one is saying to Huawei don't invest in Australia. We're just saying in the National Broadband Network, that's a problem," Emerson said. "Sometimes you have to make these decisions and this doesn't in any way reflect on the overall relationship" with China.

Emerson added that he did not expect the decision to have a "significant impact" on relations with China.

Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming plans to visit Australia next week to discuss negotiations on a free-trade deal that has dragged on since 2005.

Emerson said he did not want a few sticking points to prevent a valuable deal from being sealed.

China's Foreign Ministry last week responded to Huawei's ban by urging Australia not to discriminate against Chinese companies.

Huawei, which unlike many big Chinese companies is not state owned, has rejected suggestions it might be a security risk and said it has won the trust of global telecommunications companies.

After news of the ban became public last week, Huawei took the unprecedented step of raising its public profile by sponsoring a Canberra-based rugby league football team. It is the first time Huawei has ever sponsored a football team anywhere in the world.


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