China’s government said at a meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that Australia’s restriction on Chinese 5G technology was “obviously discriminative” and appeared to break global trade rules, Reuters reported.

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.

The Chinese representative said Australia had not published any official documents about the ban, which appeared to have come into force in September last year.

In August 2018, the Australian government confirmed that Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE have been banned from supplying equipment for 5G networks in the country.

“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 said during a meeting at the WTO.

Under WTO rules, member countries are not allowed to discriminate between trading partners and reject imports from one particular country, according to the report.

However, member countries can cite “national security” to gain an exemption from the normal global trade rules. Last week, a WTO ruling clarified the use of the national security exemption saying that this 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.”

Following the implementation of the ban, Huawei said the decision by the Australian government to block the company from the country’s domestic 5G market was politically motivated and not the result of a fact-based decision-making process.

In November 2018, New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) blocked local carrier Spark from using Huawei 5G equipment in the deployment of its 5G infrastructure, citing significant national security risks.

At that time, Spark said it had been notified by the Director-General of the GCSB, in accordance with the requirements of the Telecommunications Act 2013 (TICSA), that its proposed approach to implementing 5G technology on the Spark mobile network — using Huawei equipment — posed a national security risk. Local operators are required to notify the country’s spy agency of their planned deployments in the 5G field. Specifically, Spark’s proposal had involved the deployment of Huawei 5G equipment in Spark’s planned 5G RAN.

However, in February, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there was not yet an active ban on the use of Huawei’s gear in 5G networks. Ardern said her government is working through a process to analyze potential risk associated with the use of Huawei equipment but added that the Chinese vendor could still be involved in 5G deployments in New Zealand — if Spark can satisfy the GCSB’s concerns.

Also in 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which includes new regulations that ban government agencies doing business with Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE.

The bill prohibits the U.S. government and its contractors from buying certain telecommunications and video surveillance equipment from Huawei, ZTE and other Chinese communications companies. The ban covers components and services deemed “essential” or “critical” to any government system.

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