China told Australia at the World Trade Organization on Friday that Australia’s restriction on Chinese 5G telecoms technology was “obviously discriminative” and appeared to break global trade rules, according to a transcript seen by Reuters.
China’s representative at the WTO’s Council on Trade in Goods said measures to restrict 5G technology had a “great impact on international trade” and would not address concerns about cybersecurity, but only make countries technologically isolated.
Last August Australia banned Huawei from supplying equipment for a 5G mobile network citing national security risks, a move the Chinese telecoms gear maker criticised as being “politically motivated”.
The Chinese diplomat said Australia had not published any official documents about the ban, which appeared to have come into force before the relevant law took effect on Sept. 18 2018.
Cybersecurity and 5G security required international cooperation, the Chinese diplomat said.
“Country-specific and discriminatory restriction measures can not address the concerns on cybersecurity, nor make anyone safe, but only disrupt the global industrial chain, and make the country itself isolated from the application of better technology,” the diplomat told the meeting.
An official who attended the meeting said Australia’s representative spoke briefly to acknowledge receiving written questions from China but added that Australia’s Trade Ministry had not yet had time to formulate its response.
Under WTO rules, member countries are not allowed to discriminate between trading partners and reject imports from one particular country.
However, they can cite “national security” to gain an exemption from the normal global trade rules. It was a taboo for decades because diplomats and lawyers feared national security claims would become the norm, undermining the WTO rulebook.
But last week, the first ever WTO ruling clarified the use of the national security exemption and set a clear test for its use.
Apart from war and the arms trade, national security generally 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,” it said.