June 27, 2018 / 12:48 AM / 3 months ago

Chinese telco Huawei lobbies hard to allay Australia's security concerns

SYDNEY, June 27 (Reuters) - Chinese telecom firm Huawei Technologies Co Ltd's network equipment is "safe and secure", its Australian chairman said on Wednesday, ramping up the company's public lobbying against concerns that its links to China pose a security risk.

Australia is likely to bar Huawei from participating in a 5G mobile telecommunications roll-out as it fears the company is de facto controlled by Beijing and sensitive infrastructure will be vulnerable to eavesdropping, according to Australian media reports.

"Banning Huawei will not make the Australian telecom ecosystem safer, but will have a huge impact on the industry and the prices and services Australians receive," John Lord, chairman of Huawei's Australian unit, told Australian Associated Press on Wednesday.

"It will be a great policy failure and demonstrate to the world that we are not ready for the new reality of a smart and innovative China," said Lord, adding Huawei's products are "safe and secure".

The spat between Huawei and Australia's security agencies lands amid a low in Sino-Australian relations and intense concern at Chinese influence in Australian politics.

Huawei, whose chairman Lord, was a former Rear Admiral in Australia's Navy, emerged on Tuesday as the top corporate sponsor of international trips by Australian federal politicians.

Australia is preparing to pass laws designed to limit China's influence in domestic affairs following criticism by Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that Beijing was interfering.

Turnbull said on Wednesday his government was still mulling Huawei's role in the country's nascent 5G network.

"We'll continue to consider that and get the best advice on that from our national security agencies," he said.

Huawei, the world's largest maker of telecommunications network equipment and the No. 3 smartphone supplier, has already been virtually shut out from the giant U.S. market because of national security concerns.

It was blocked on security grounds from supplying equipment to Australia's new broadband network and Australia this month promised hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure Huawei did not build an internet cable between Australia and the Solomon Islands.

The diplomatic rift between Australia and China has spilled into the trade sphere in recent weeks as Australian wine exporters such as Treasury Wine Estates have faced delays getting some products through Chinese customs.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Michael Perry

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